Heartbeat of fiestas

Entertainers from all over the Southwest bring a lively flavor to annual celebration


Music abounds at the 2017 Fiestas de Taos, from local and regional bands to out-of-state guests. This year brings entertainers from Taos County, across New Mexico and from California, Texas and Colorado. Many of the musicians donate their time and talent to this free event.

Festivities begin Friday (July 21), 5:30 p.m., at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church with the mariachi fiesta Mass and crowning of the fiesta queen and court. Santa Fe’s Mariachi Sonidos del Monte will bring celebratory music to the event and be featured throughout the weekend. The official opening of the fiestas is Friday at 7 p.m. at the historic Taos Plaza, with closing ceremonies at the Plaza at 7 p.m. on Sunday (July 23).

“We are blessed that we have so many entertainers from Northern New Mexico and out of state, as well, that year after year volunteer their time and performance to the community of Taos for the fiestas,” said Don Francisco Trujillo II, who chairs the Fiesta Council’s Entertainment Committee and serves as vice president of the council.

In selecting bands for the fiestas, Trujillo said he looks for performers with talent and the “ability to maintain their performances in the traditional sense of the Native American, Hispanic/Latino and country-western culture of our region.”

Here are some highlights:

• Maggie “La Rancherita” Vigil was encouraged in her musical pursuits by her parents, Felix and Eloisa Vigil, of Los Cordovas. She is the proud mother of two sons. Vigil has performed “La Entrega” for the fiesta royalty many times in the past. This year, she is featured as a main performer for the first time, performing with the Indian Nickel Band from Colorado. Vigil has just released her first CD, called “Por La Primera Vez.” It has already sold hundreds of copies.

• For nearly 20 years, Uvaldo Olonia has performed with the San Francisco de Asís Church Choir for the Fiestas de Taos on Sunday mornings, and this tradition continues this year. Olonia will also perform with his band, Lluvia Negra, for the first time. The band will play its popular “Chile Verde Rock,” which won the crossover song of the year award from the New Mexico Hispano Music Association in 2017. Lluvia Negra expects to release another CD with many original songs this September.

• Emi Arte Flamenco from Santa Fe will perform for the first time at the Fiestas de Taos this year. According to Trujillo, these fiestas have historically had many dance troupes performing traditional Mexican dances, but only one Spanish flamenco group – Catalina Río Fernandez and Flamenco Nuevo Mexico. Fernandez has performed for the fiestas for more than 25 years. This year, Emmy Grimm of Emi Arte Flamenco will also perform on Saturday afternoon. Emi Arte is produced and directed by Grimm and international flamenco singer Vicente Griego. The company’s mission is “to promote the history and culture of traditional flamenco through cutting-edge performances and classes, captivating people of all ages.”

Grimm commented, “We are very excited [to come to the Fiestas de Taos], as Vicente Griego is a native of Dixon and I am a native of Chamisal!”

• Legacy Band of Colorado Springs is a multicultural Latin rock and R&B band. For the past six years, Legacy has been devoted to bringing back what the band’s members refer to as “the good old days of music.” The band has opened for many Grammy Award-winning musicians, including Carlos Santana, Tony Lindsay and Raul Rekow. Joining the Legacy Band in Taos is Paris Escovedo, son of Thomas “Coke” Escovedo, who performed with Santana and formed the Latin orchestral band Azteca. Paris Escovedo, a percussionist, was given his first timbales by Tito Puentes and created his own sound, which he calls “ghetto jazz.” It combines urban, funk, soul, Latin, jazz, hip-hop and Afro-Cuban influences.

• Gustavo Rodríguez was raised in a small west Texas town with nine siblings. For 10 years, he played with his band, Los Locos. In 2001, he formed the Gustavo Rodríguez Band. The band plays original and cover songs and is influenced by Santana, The Gypsy Kings, Bob Marley and Los Lonely Boys with a touch of Freddy Fender, Zac Brown and Malo. Rodríguez will be returning to Taos with his wife, Sarah Rodríguez, to play for the fiestas.

• Anthony Lukesh is the drummer and director of the band Suavecito, which is based in Socorro. Suavecito will be performing for this year’s Gran Baile on Saturday night. Expect to hear New Mexico Spanish music, as well as country, oldies, R&B, Top 40 and rock and roll. Suavecito’s CD, “Que Padre,” has sold more than 1,200 copies, with the band currently working on another recording.

“We are grateful to be performing for the Gran Baile de las Fiestas de Taos on the historic Plaza, and I would like to thank Don Francisco Trujillo II for this great opportunity!” exclaimed Lukesh. “We will have a great time entertaining everyone. Hope to see you on the dance floor!”

• Since 1991, Ernest Montoya y Cuarenta y Cinco have been known for high-energy performances of música Nuevo Mexicana. Cuarento y Cinco plays a blend of rancheras, cumbias, valses, boleros, country-western, oldies and modern rock. With eight CDs out and airplay on every New Mexico station that plays Spanish music, this Taos band gets around. The group’s music can be found on iTunes and Spotify, as well as online radio stations.

• Antonio Ortiz y Simpatico, a four-piece band, has released two CDs with six original songs. Those two releases received 40 nominations and seven awards from the New Mexico Hispano Music Association. The band plans to release a new CD in the near future. For the fiestas, Simpatico will play some new material, as well as songs from the band’s first two recordings.

“Simpatico has a very unique sound. It’s a Northern New Mexico sound with a little Tejano flavor,” says Ortiz.

Simpatico will be performing at the fiestas for the second consecutive year. Prior to last year, Simpatico had last performed at the fiestas in 1999.

“We had a really good time last year and had a great reaction from the crowd and great feedback,” said Ortiz. “The [Fiestas de Taos] are one of the few fiestas left in the state of New Mexico that are still keeping the Spanish tradition alive and featuring local Spanish bands.”

Severo Martínez y Fuego will close out the Fiestas de Taos this year. Named one of the top five bands in the state of New Mexico, Severo Martínez y Fuego recently played to a crowd of 16,000 for the halftime show for the Denver Nuggets NBA team Latin Night. “It’s awesome to be closing out the fiestas this year!” Martínez said. “It is truly an honor to be part of these fiestas year after year.”

A full schedule of music and entertainment can be found on Page 36 of this week’s special Fiestas de Taos issue.