Monday, November 06, 2006

Will Country Music Translate Into Hispanic Languages And Cultures?

AP's Travis Loller writes: Music Row Hopes Hispanics Who Love Country-Flavored Tunes Will Turn Into Next Big Audience

"I do think a huge portion of the Latin American population loves the same themes: meetin', greetin', cheatin' and retreatin,'" said Eddie Wright-Rios, a Vanderbilt University professor who specializes in the cultural history of modern Mexico.

Superficial similarities aside, no one really knows if the nation's largest minority group is ready for fiddles and steel guitars. The phrase "country music" doesn't even have a translation in Spanish.

The Country Music Association says there are no good studies to show how many Hispanics listen to country already, so the CMA formed its own task force to investigate. That happened shortly after the only country music station in Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest city with a Hispanic population of 49 percent, abruptly changed formats to urban contemporary one Thursday in August.

"I honestly don't think this is a knee-jerk reaction to that," said Jeff Walker, a CMA board member who chairs the task force. "Some of our artist board members, like John Rich of Big and Rich, have noticed a lot of Hispanics showing up at their shows. "We want to look at the marketing aspect and how to tap into that," he said.

Eva Melo, of Tennessee-based Latin Market Communications, said the CMA has requested a proposal for a Hispanic market study, but she is skeptical her fellow Hispanics will take to the genre. "A lot of people confuse regional Mexican music with country because it comes from the ranches and farms, but if you translate a country song into Spanish, it wouldn't sound like regional Mexican music," she said. "In regional Mexican they sing about their culture and customs, things you don't have in the U.S. I don't know if Hispanics will relate to country music because it doesn't come out of Mexico. It comes out of Nashville."

Cox News Service: The same can be said about the format's appeal to other minorities as well: John Rumble, a senior historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, takes a big-picture view of country music's prevailing whiteness. The work force in general, he notes, doesn't reflect ethnic and religious groups in proportion to their overall percentage of the population.

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