Maneja Beto
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Maneja Beto


Band Latin Alternative


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"Managing Influences- Maneja Beto puts the verse in versatility"

Managing Influences
Austin's Maneja Beto puts the verse in versatility

Maneja Beto
with Salvador Duran
9 p.m., Wednesday, July 26
Solar Culture
31 E. Toole Ave.
$6, all ages

Accidentes de Longitud y Latitud, Maneja Beto's second release, starts out with what sounds like someone tap dancing on a garage door. Almost magically, the crashing turns into hand claps, and then, a ukulele begins. The hand claps disappear as quickly as they came in; the percussion picks up the beat; a guitar melody steps in and steps out; and as the violin and glockenspiel turn the song toward American folk, another voice comes in, belting an echo of the second verse, Mexican-ballad style.
The lyrics may be in Spanish, the rhythms Latin, but Maneja Beto refuses to be pinned down as just another band playing rock en Español or cumbia.
Maneja Beto began about four years ago, and from the beginning, they knew they wanted to somehow mix their favorite things about rock in English, the traditional music of their youth, and more contemporary rock en Español. And they knew they wanted to sing in Spanish.
"A lot of the songs are about longing or love lost, things like that, and I think for me, expressing myself in Spanish, those emotions in Spanish, I can better articulate them," said guitarist and native Spanish speaker Nelson Valente. "It comes across, I think, in a more meaningful way. For example, if I say 'te quiero,' to me, it just sounds way more powerful than 'I love you.'"
Even if you can't understand the exact words of Maneja Beto's songs, though, the music expresses the emotion, and it's clear that these songs sung in English just wouldn't be the same. All the same, the Austin, Texas-based quintet has encountered people who don't understand why they don't just sing in English so that their more American audiences can understand them.
"A language barrier is a language barrier; (people) might be turned off by it, but we're not going to change to increase our audience or please certain people," said Valente. "It's not a matter of pride--it's just the way we write."
But, added Valente, "I have found people who have said, 'You know, man, I don't know what the hell you're saying, but, man, I'm dancing to it; it's great.'"
On Accidentes de Longitud y Latitud, they cram quite a lot of their influences in--everything from electronica to Tejano--but it's packed in smoothly and subtly. The result is a natural-sounding blend of musical heritages.
"We don't sit down and discuss, 'OK, today I want to write a Middle Eastern-influenced tune, or I want to write a ranchera today'--it's nothing like that," said Valente. "It usually comes from listening to something from home, listening to our record collections and bringing that in.
"If I take a look at your iPod, I'm sure I would find all styles of music on there," he continued. "It's the same for most of us, and so it's natural for us to produce that kind of music, the music we love, and try to cram it in there in one song or 30 songs."
Accidentes de Longitud y Latitud may only be 14 songs, but it's all there: "Buenaventura" dances norteño, but then the guitar solo on "Oye Amigo" turns modern rock. "Cumbia de las Bombas" lives up to its name, and there's electronica influences all over "Adios Lula." "Canto Fúnebre" sounds more Texas country than Tejano, and "Los Cerros" could be the indie rock flavor of the month. Which is why Maneja Beto calls their music "indie en Español."
"We're not necessarily just a traditional cumbia band," explained Valente. "We don't sound like Malitia; we don't sound like Mano Negra. Great artists, and I respect them all; I have some of their records, but I don't want the Español tag, because for one thing, we're not from Mexico; we're Mexican-Americans--we're Texans, man. We don't want to be labeled a rock en Español band or a Tejano band, you know--we'd rather have indie in Español."
The only formula for Maneja Beto is to keep things interesting. "It was just for us, a matter of, OK, we like all these styles of music, from the Cure to Rigo Tovar to Frank Sinatra--how can we combine them and make them work in the context of a pop song, if you will?" said Valente. "So that's kind of how we went into this, and we've had some pretty cool results, and everybody's pretty happy.
"After four years of being together, we still haven't done our work; there's a lot more work to do, you know, as far as producing good music."

- Tucson Weekly

"Band has political message- you can dance to"

Band has political message - you can dance to
Published: 07.20.2006

What you hear is not necessarily what you get with Austin five-piece Maneja Beto.
The Texas natives who make up the Latin pop-fusion group have a political and social conscience that always seems to find its way into their music. At first listen, "Cumbia de las Bombas," a hit from their latest CD, sounds like just another light, fun, bouncy Mexican dance tune. But if people on the dance floor stop to listen to the lyrics, they'll realize they've been shaking their bonbons to a song about the evils of war.
"Sonically, it's an interesting contrast, a juxtaposition of a political song that sounds fun, but it's very unassuming," lead singer Alex Chavez says. "You would never think that a song with that kind of a chord progression, with that kind of a feel, had such serious political content."
The title of the group's new CD, "Accidentes de Longitud y Latitud," also has socio-political connotations. With the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami in mind, the band chose the title as a way of saying that geography either "causes epic and catastrophic accidents" or "monumental and cathartic possibilities."
People have no control over certain aspects of their lives such as where they're born, their ethnicity and their gender. "Although we're born into these kinds of conditions," Chavez says, "we possess a certain agency where we can actively navigate all that and make what we will of the world we live in.
"It's empowering to think of it that way.... We tend to assume that these things are accidents, that chance is at play here, and sometimes it is. Who has control over a natural disaster like that (Hurricane Katrina)? But at the same time, is that really an accident - the fact that these levies weren't reinforced when they should have been by the federal government?"
Pretty heavy indeed - and that's the way Manejo Beto likes it. The thinking man's party band? Not exactly.
"We'd like to be the kind of band that you go and listen to. And that is precisely what a party band is not," stresses Chavez, without any hint of pretension or self-righteousness.
Plenty of people seem to be listening to the group of 20- and 30-something musicians made up of Chavez, Nelson Valente, Will Schulz, Patrick Estrada and Bobby Garza. The band's music has received mentions in The New York Times, won raves at South by Southwest and been featured in the 2005 documentary, "Letters from the Other Side."
Maneja Beto's fresh sound is what's drawing the most attention. Fusing traditional Latin music (cumbia, son, bolero, norteño, huapango, huasteco, tejano) with modern influences (pop, alternative rock, electronica, emo), the band has fashioned a sound that reflects the duality of its Mexican-American upbringing. Band members grew up listening to both the traditional Latin music of their parents and to the modern alt-pop/rock of such groups as the Cure, Depeche Mode and Morrissey.
It's no surprise then that Maneja Beto draws comparisons not only to Ozomatli, Los Lobos and Cafe Tacuba, but also to Coldplay and Interpol.
As with some of those bands, Maneja Beto's sound is difficult to categorize. "Accidentes" features a variety of music forms, from the lush old-school bolero of "Hoy" to the bossa nova-tinged "Alma de mi Alma" to the straight up pop of "Los Cerros" - all written by the group. The only cover on the CD is the band's electronica-flavored take on the huasteco classic, "El Gusto," perfectly suited for Chavez's exuberant falsetto ventures.
All tracks on the CD, the group's second, are sung in Spanish, which the band prefers. Maneja Beto likes to mix it up at concerts, though, and performs some songs in English.
"We do a cover of Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart,' " drummer Estrada says. "And if people come to our show and hear that and know what it is, they're just blown away that this band that just played a cumbia does a cover of Joy Division."
Maneja Beto (Beto at the Wheel) continues to draw crowds of all ages, ethnicities and gender - even people who don't speak Spanish.
"Some of these kids who usually go to emo and punk shows, they come up and go, 'Man, I don't know what you guys are saying and I don't know how to cumbia or salsa, but, man, when you guys play dancing tunes, we just move,' " Estrada says.
"I can hardly wait to see people moshing to cumbia," Chavez adds with a laugh.
Hey, it could happen.
- Tucson Citizen


Accidentes De Longitud Y Latitud
Para Que Las Paredes No Se Aburran
Untitled (EP)
Tragedias (singles series)



First thing you need to know: There is no Beto. Beto is not the singer, uncle of a band member or one in a succession of drummers that spontaneously combusted during a live show leaving a green glob on a drum throne…Maneja Beto is a band that plays music that can best be described as indie en español and sounds as if Brian Eno sidled up to Los Lobos in an East Austin bar and riffed on Talking Heads songs. Maneja Beto are Chicanos from the States (an experience frought with beautiful tension and mismatch) who love The Smiths, Radiohead, and The Cure as much as they love Jose Jose, Rigo Tovar, and Lydia Mendoza. The real beauty is you can see it in their music- All at once Mexican cumbia with 80’s synth or pop rock with traditional Mexican guitars. Maneja Beto presents an aural landscape that is the borderlands… period.
After 2 critically-acclaimed Full-Length Albums, an EP and now a series of singles coming out each month from now until SXSW the band is ready to rumble