Los Angeles Chicano rock band Quetzal is nominated for a Grammy for their album based on a book. (Courtesy Humberto Howard)

Los Angeles Chicano rock band Quetzal nominated for a Grammy

Their lyrics talk about struggles you might be familiar with. It’s the first time the Grammy’s include a nomination for fandango jarocho influenced album and the Chicano rock band Quetzal from East Los Angeles is nominated in their 20 year career.

Lead singer Martha Gonzalez says that it’s an honor and shows progress in their career to be nominated for a Grammy. “Really? Wow didn’t know we would be nominated,” Gonzalez says.

She says they didn’t expect to be nominated for a Grammy but are glad they are being recognized for their hard work.

“Fandango sin fronteras” is a dialogue used between Chicanos in California and Jarochos, musicians from Veracruz, Mexico.

“Myself, my partner and different people in the community have put in a lot of time and effort to teach this way of practicing music to other members within the community” Gonzalez says.

“Fandango sin fronteras is like really big now like there’s different types of people who play this music,” Gonzalez says, which helped influence the incorporation of fandango jaracho music into their songs.

Gonzalez writes the lyrics as the other group members including Tylana Enomoto, Alberto Lopez, Juan Perez, Peter Jacobson and Quetzal Flores create the accompanying music. “Everybody brings their own thing and we all put in our own strength,” she says.

The album Quetzal Imaginaries is based on a book, The Decolonial Imaginary: Writing Chicanas Into History by Emma Perez, which inspired Gonzalez, especially the way the author talked about hope and imagination. “Imagination is something important to have in everyone’s life,” she says adding that the album is about hope and imagination, “And using those tools in life to feel fulfilled”.

Gonzalez wrote the song Imaginaries because of the impact Emma Perez’s book had on her.

Gonzalez says, “Imagination is really important especially for people of color in this country” because it’s important to utilize hope and imagination to feel your way out of things.

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“If you don’t get creative with life then you’re never going to get anything done,” she says.

The band has five different albums but the song Imaginaries itself received 30,000 downloads during its first week.

Quetzal is known for singing about politics and activism but, “in my opinion we sing about love and heartbreak but we talk about it in a different way,” Gonzalez says.

Gonzalez says that they want to get people thinking and they like to stay genuine to what they live. “We like to talk about other things that no one likes to talk about” because “I want my kids to be proud of what we did.”

While Quetzal says the music is for everybody, they have a special place in their heart for their Chicano community.

“When we are writing it is for our community for the people that have been struggling, the people that have been feeling a little down,” Gonzalez says. “You’re looking in the mirror and you’re writing about people like you…it’s not that we are trying to exclude but we are trying to represent something that is not normally out there.”

They were founded in 1992 by Quetzal Flores who wanted to explore a new sound in Chicano music. The band kept the name Quetzal not because of the founder but because of the meaning behind the word. A Quetzal is a bird that cannot live in captivity and they say that perfectly represents their music. “We cannot be put under one genre and like the Quetzal bird we cannot be captive to just one genre,” Gonzalez says.

They hope their music sends out a more positive view of Latinos than is already out there and shows that they are intelligent people with a rich history.

“I think that we are trying to paint a different type of picture of ourselves as Latinos and for me that is really important,” Gonzalez says.

The band is currently working on a new album that will be about urban animals that live in the city. The album will focus on the way animals think and what they go through.

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