Showcasing Latino Culture Through Music
During Hispanic Heritage Month, Sigma Lambda Beta will be publishing pieces that showcase the culture of our membership. We talked to Brothers from around their country to get their thoughts and expertise.
His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s pozole…
Luckily for us, the above scene doesn’t play out when Brother Adan Figueroa (Sigma Alpha) takes the mic for Radio DePaul, the university’s award-winning radio station. Adan is a busy man at Radio Depaul as he’s a host of three radio shows, one of which is Ponte las Pilas which showcases a number of Latino music genres. We sat down with Adan to get his take on how music can showcase Latino culture.
What inspired you to start Ponte Las Pilas?
My undergraduate experience definitely helped motivate to start Ponte Las Pilas. As an undergrad I did four years for radio and primarily focused on Latino music that went from Regional Mexicano to playing other Latino genres on the radio show, which then translated into focusing more on Hip-Hop my senior year. Last year I was able to start my first year at grad school at DePaul and this being my second year I wanted to get back to my roots and had the support of my cousin, who is my actual co-host for the show. Ponte Las Pilas, a Mexican saying, refers to getting your life together, getting your head out the gutter.
What type of music do you play on the show?
We focus on Mexican music because we recognize it’s a huge market and demographic. There’s a major Mexican music based station in ever major city, and we wanted to make sure we focus on our culture, since the biggest population of Latinos on campus are of Mexican descent. We also decided to keep the show bilingual because we recognize that not every generation of Mexican decent speaks Spanish, but did grow up with they music in their household. Music connects us to the different generations in our family.
Why kind of feedback do you get from your listeners?
So far we’ve actually gotten a lot of good feedback. We try to focus our segments on whatever is currently going on in the country and within the city of Chicago. We give folks updates on what concerts are going on in the Chicagoland area and keep people in the loop on what is transpiring on campus socially and politically. Musically, we try to be different than would normally be on your average radio station. We try playing live audio from artists at concerts so listeners have a feel of attending a live show. We also will be catering shows towards different topics. One of our upcoming shows will be catered towards two iconic Mexican artists that passed away (Joan Sebastian & Juan Gabriel) and will be playing their music as well as covers by other artists since much of their fame came through their writings performed by other artists.
You also run a Hip-Hop called The 5th Element, which show do you find harder to keep up with in terms of finding new music?
I honestly find it harder to keep up with Regional-Mexicano music just because I’m covering a larger scope and sub-genres as opposed to just Hip-Hop. That can range from mariachi driven music, to banda, corridor, Duranguense, and many other sub-genres within Regional Mexicano. For me, Hip-Hop shows are usually easier to keep up with since we focus so much on the buzzing Chicago Hip-Hop scene, which currently has had the most attention in the last few years as a response to guys like Chance The Rapper, Mick Jenkins, Vic Mensa, NoName, Chris Spencer, Treated Crew, Save Money, and countless others making a name for themselves within the city. Since one of my chapter brothers is my co-host (S/O to brother Gerardo Acosta), he focuses primarily on whatever is getting buzz at a national level, while I focus on the local sound. The hardest job we encounter every week has actually been getting clean music, which 97% of rappers in the local scene do not have radio ready music. We spend a few hours during the week actually cleaning music and preparing for artists interviews we have scheduled throughout the quarter. You can kind of say this has been our calling since we have had the opportunity to interview a who’s who of artists from Chicago all garnering national attention. We are glad to have become advocates for artists in our city and a platform to build with these artists in many occasions whether it be through Radio DePaul or through the chapter’s programming and Hip-Hop related events we created on campus.
Do you think music bridges cultural barriers, even among different Latino cultures?
Music and language help people understand each other better. Whether it’s music in Spanish or English, music is all emotion and that comes across. It also is s huge way of getting news across. For example, corridos historically have been used as a news medium to let people know about the violence and injustices in Mexico. They originated in a time in the early 1900s when newspapers and news mediums were censored and controlled by the government so music became a way to get news across a country and it traveled from state to state during the Mexican Revolution. Same goes with Hip-Hop that can be used as a vessel of wisdom and empowerment, especially in troubling times like these in our country within communities of color. Hip-Hop allows full on expression on the current state of our communities from those being effected by it, which allows a better understanding between people of different colors or cultures.
Being a part of a Latino based fraternity, can you talk a bit about the level of support you receive from your chapter?
Chapter wise, it was always embedded in us that we do everything we work on at campus for the next generation of men of color on campus. The alumni are an integral part of our chapter and it has been good to reach out and know that you have the support of someone that has been in your position and has either already planned and worked on similar events or programming that I did as an undergrad. Being in Chicago has also allowed us to have older brothers in the chapter come support the event, which lets undergraduates know that they have the full support of the chapter.
I remember my senior year we brought out Bobby Seale and Felipe Luciano (founders of Black Panthers and Young Lords, respectively) for an event we ended up calling Founders of Hope and having so many alumni from our chapter and many other chapters be there in support because it was a huge event for us as a chapter that we worked hard on. After that we ended up hitting up a local spot (Allendes) and actually got time to speak and learn from both Felipe and Bobby and that we represented different generations of struggle that worked to empower our communities. From an undergraduate perspective, accountability has always been very important in making sure that we not only get to have fun, but remember our responsibilities in school and maintaining grade so we all graduate on time.
You can Brother Adan Figueroa and stream Ponte las Pilas every Saturday from 2-4pm CST at Radio DePaul or through iHeartRadio’s mobile apps. You can also catch Adan’s other shows The Fifth Element from 12-2pm CST and The Last Heels professional wrestling show on Radio DePaul Sports from 10-11:30am CST also on Saturdays.