Tag Archives: banda

Death of a Tuba Superstar – RIP El Jokoki


Carlos Soto, El Jokoki

Sad news from Mexico that Carlos Soto Beltran, aka El Jokoki, has died of complications from leukemia.

Soto was the tuba player for many years for Banda El Recodo, the holy mother of all bandas in Sinaloa.

He grew into something of the Michael Jordan of the tuba, in that he was a great player, but also made his persona into something younger tuba players wanted to follow and emulate.

He was, in other words, the first star tuba player – something that Mexican tuba playing didn’t have before him.

Soto spent 20 years with Recodo. He retired due to his illness in 2012 and his place was taken by another great and influential tuba player, Alfredo Herrejon.

During his years with Recodo, though, Soto raised the bell on his tuba so that the audience could see his face, thus plucking tuba players forever from the obscurity and ignominy they endured with the bell covering their face down to their nose.

I want to say he was among the first to engrave his tubas with florid designs – but others please correct me if I’m wrong.

Soto also had a signature tuba mouthpiece – the Jokoki – made by Pablo Garibaldi of Garibaldi Music in Paramount, CA.

His nickname means Cream.

El Debate from Culiacan says in its obituary that he retired from Recodo to dedicate himself to therapy for people sick with cancer, spinal ailments and others.

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The World’s Best Trombonist … from Oaxaca to Pico-Union

Faustino Diaz

The world’s greatest trombonist appeared in a small music studio in the Pico-Union district of Los Angeles this week.

Faustino Diaz, from Oaxaca, won the prestigious Jeju international trombone competition in Korea earlier this month.

Three days later he was back in his village of San Lorenzo Cacaotepec (pop. 7300), playing danzones with the village band he grew up in, directed by his father.

Diaz has a beautiful story, which reminded me of so many Oaxacan immigrants in LA.

In his village, music possibilities were limited. So he left for Mexico City. There he improved, but as time passed he found he was still not the musician he thought he could be, even as he played in the philharmonic of the National Autonomous University (UNAM).

So a few years ago, he left the plum job with the UNAM philharmonic, gambled everything and moved to Rotterdam, Holland to study with Jorgen van Rijen, who remade his sound, tenderized his musical sensibilities that had been stunted by limited exposure to the world’s music and best musicians off in Mexico.IMG_1771

Showing the kind of gumption that has characterized so many immigrants, including his Oaxacan paisanos here in LA, he became a world-class musician himself.

He came in second in the trombone competition a year ago in Italy. But this year, seasoned and ready for his moment, Diaz beat a French and a Japanese competitor, and 46 others.

With hallucinogenic jet lag, he returned to a hero’s welcome back in Oaxaca, with a parade through his village, hordes of journalists to ask him how he did it, and the banda in which he first learned to play — trumpet initially, then trombone — ready to receive him.

Famed Oaxacan painter Francisco Toledo came to town to congratulate him.

Next day, he flew to Mexico City and was mobbed in a press conference there as well.IMG_1773

This week, he’s in the music studios of Estanislao Maqueos , the premier Oaxacan band instructor in Los Angeles. (2142 W. Washington Blvd., just east of Western Avenue)

Diaz plays with an orchestra of children born to Oaxacan parents, and trained by Maqueos, tonight (Thursday) at the Mexican Consulate on 6th Street near MacArthur Park. 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, a few previous posts from True Tales: A Reporters’ Blog:

Narco-mennonites arrested again

A legend of the raspado

Curandero Carlos, Guatemalan Witch Doctor


Filed under California, Culture, Los Angeles, Mexico, Migrants, Uncategorized

PHOTOGRAPHY: Another Tuba Photo

Paramount, CA

Alfredo Herrejon, tuba player for Banda El Recodo.

Alfredo changed Mexican tuba with his playing on “Mi Gusto Es” by Banda Tierra Blanca in 1997 — a reworking of the tuba part in that classic ranchero song that ignited the imagination of dozens of younger players.

Mexican tuba playing hasn’t been the same since.

This was taken outside the shop where he has his tuba mouthpieces made — Garibaldi Musical Instruments in Paramount, CA.

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LOS ANGELES: The Tubas have left the building … again

Los Angeles Tuba

So yet another school has lost its sousaphones to thieves who apparently will spare no effort, and overlook many other valuable items, to make off only with the tubas.

San Fernando High School’s marching band had its only two tubas stolen last month. The thieves broke into one band room, stole nothing, then broke into another and stole nothing but the tubas — overlooking guitars, violins, trumpets, drums, etc.

It’s all about banda music and the tuba’s newfound popularity here in LA, where it’s really the emblematic instrument of the era, much like the guitar was in the 1970s.



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Filed under Culture, Los Angeles, Mexico, Southern California

CULTURE (kind of): SNL spoofs tuba thefts

This is getting weird. SNL’s Weekend Update riffed off the stolen tuba story last night. Here’s the full show, check it out at minute 35 or so.

As it happens, I missed it. By weird coincidence, I was out last night at a rehearsal of a banda of guys calling themselves Los BuKnas de Culiacan (that would be a bastardization of Buchanan, the rum), in a garage in Downey (see photos above). Buchanan Rum is a prized drink in the Mexican narco world — a sign of class and having arrived.

One of the songs was “Si No Vienes Conmigo” — which involves a man threatening his girlfriend that if she doesn’t come with him, he’s going to kidnap her and not charge a ransom. Where’s the romance gone?

Actually the band is a mixture of banda and norteno — with tuba, baritone horn, plus accordion — and looks to me a lot like the beginnings of punk rock. Went to the club where they were playing after the rehearsal and they wouldn’t let me and two BBC colleagues in. Reporters strictly prohibited at El Potrero Club in Cudahy.






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Filed under Los Angeles, Mexico, Migrants, Uncategorized

MIGRANTS: Tuba thefts

Santiago "Shagi" Mata, tuba player, Maywood, CA

The LA band craze continues to claim high school tubas right and left.

Here’s a link to a story about the latest: Bell High School had two stolen over the weekend, valued at $6,000 apiece. Several other schools have had tubas stolen in recent months.

It’s all about the emergence of the tuba as the emblematic instrument for Southern California in this era, just as the electric guitar was for the 1970s.

With the arrival of Mexican immigrants, and their tradition of house parties, the tuba has become all the rage in SoCal. Great tubists in banda music, like Santiago Mata (pictured here), are paid more than other musicians.

Also, the Sierreno trio — tuba, guitar and accordion — has grown in popularity at these parties.

Hence, tubas, the most expensive of marching band instruments, are in high demand. Most of the thefts have taken place in predominantly Mexican immigrant areas — southeast of LA especially — where banda is hugely popular.

I’ve written a story about this phenomenon and one about the thefts of tubas that many instructors believe is the result.










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Filed under Los Angeles, Mexico, Migrants