Selena y SONIDO

On the eve of their second Selena Quintanilla tribute night, entertainment collective Sonido Clash reflects on their method and roots
The members of Sonido Clash, from left to right: Luis Alba, Fernando Julian Perez, Melinda Chacon, Angel Luna, Roman Zepeda, Thomas Ramon Aguilar. Photo Courtesy: Andrea Garcia

Arturo Hilario /El Observador

Sonido Clash is “San Joséan” to its core.

The collective is made up of a group of eclectic but wholly imaginative and entrepreneurial Latinos from across the city. They began the cohort around 2009 as a way to have fun, throw great and diverse parties, and in some ways celebrate their duality as Latino’s living in the US. Its core members had agreed on a few main points: Sonido Clash would be something for the community, it would be meaningful, and it would be engaging .

Historically San José hasn’t had the same draw as San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Cruz. Unless you’re talking about Pho or the biggest Monopoly board in the world, the entertainment sector is definitely been in the shadow of the Golden Gate and its surrounding boundaries.

But to the folks of Sonido Clash, it’s all about what can grow from San José. Since its inception they have curated musicians far and near to San José and represented the different interests and musical flavors of the vast Latino diaspora. As time has passed their networks have grown and popularity increased among the community in the Bay Area, offering opportunities for bigger events, and branching off into music curation for other events, including art galleries and a multicultural film festival.

For their 2nd Selena Tribute Night, happening at Back Bar SoFa on Saturday April 16th, (Selena’s birthday), the collective decided to play on the strengths of last year’s very effective tribute night and build upon those traits for this year’s celebration. I spoke to Fernando Perez and Roman Zepeda, two of the members of Sonido Clash, about their founding and purpose as purveyors of music and entertainment in the South Bay.

One thing is immediately certain, everyone in the ‘Clash’ have different overlapping duties. “I wear a few hats here. I don’t play music, I’d like to, I’m working my way hopefully to that point. I do a lot of research and phone calls and emails, coordinating with everybody,” says Perez. Zepeda adds, “I also go by Turbo Sonidero. I produce music, I play music and I also do networking and coordinating.”

Sonido Clash is made up of a core of 5 members, each one bringing a skill set to the table. Fernando Julian Perez, Roman Zepeda, Melinda Chacon, Angel Luna, and Thomas Ramon Aguilar. Chacon is an entrepreneur, Perez explains, “she brings an element to our organization that’s a little less testosterone (laughs), and brings a very professional network.” Luna, known as Mextape, is a hip hop MC from Oaxaca and based in San Jose. “He does hip hop en español/bilingue and he brings an element of surprise. He puts a lot of energy.” Tommy Aguilar is “another entity that’s been around San José for a while, in English music and the hip hop scene. (He) brings a lot of artists out, really well known in the english mainstream. He also helps curate these events and gets things done out here. He’s an important part of the group.”

In their HQ off of Lenzen road in San José, their workspaces are adorned with colorful flyers for past events, collaborations, and artwork from artists from LA and beyond. On one wall is the colorful paper flowers that were used in last year’s Selena Tribute event, a constant reminder of what  blossomed from their efforts.

At first Sonido Clash started off as a monthly party and get-together where one could escape the constant cycle of top 40 hits, instead preferring the vivid soundscapes of the rest of the world.

“We were established in 2009, but we were sort of doing all separate things within the same area. Latino music, entertainment, community events but we’ve always been connected because San José being as big as it is,  it’s still fairly small when you talk about whose doing what,” says Perez. “It was pretty much everyone doing something, different people from the crew and we just got together to try and make bigger parties and be more organized,” adds Zepeda.

At a Sonido Clash gathering, DJ’s play such tracks as Afro-Latino beats, Cumbia and Hip Hop from South America. It’s not totally absent of well known music, in fact that is what the purpose of the Selena Tribute night was. To meld the world of the late but beloved Selena Quintanilla in a manner that touches all types of music lovers.

What is Sonido Clash?

Perez explains it as, “a clash of sounds or a clash of genres. Kind of similar to the identity of a Latino here, ‘no eres de aqui pero no eres de aya’ (“you are neither from here nor there”). You have this sort of clash of identities. I thought it was so badass that we were using the old logo from the San José Earthquakes. In a way it’s just in your face a little bit. You make up your mind on what it means to you. If you go to a show you’ll experience that.”

Zepeda adds, “I think they try to put us in a box, Latinos or just anybody that’s a minority here in the United States, I think our party reflects just being a Latino here in San José but it could also be a Filipino guy, it could be a white guy or whatever. I’ve heard of people that come to our parties that are not Latino and say ‘I remember hearing that one track at my friend’s party’. We play some top 40 but we try not to because all the other clubs do that. We try to push and be more than just the same dance party you see in San José.”

As a dance party they have hit the nail on the head for the community that frequently sells out these shows, but as time goes on their approach to entertainment, and what that entails, keeps evolving. Perez says, “I think our capacity has grown. (Because) of the growth that we’ve seen over the years we’re doing shows sometimes 2 or 3 times a month. We’re getting out of the club scene, we’re being asked to perform, we’re being invited to showcase, to curate, event coordinate. People are giving us the respect through the work that they’ve seen in our growth..inviting us to educate other audiences and other spaces.”

In truth, in years past San José might not have been a place where people would stop on their way to San Francisco or the East Bay, but as groups like Sonido Clash spread through the internet and other musicians word of mouth, they are able to bring bigger acts. “Now we present bands that sometimes overlook San José. And I think a large part of it has to do with Roman (Zepeda) having a strong network and his presence in the music. He represents San José across the world right now. And that’s kind of neat. To represent your hometown and to know we’re building here,” says Perez.

The Tribute

“I think when we started Sonido Clash we all got together knowing  she set some trends that today are pop artist are emulating her. She definitely could have changed a whole lot had she not passed away, maybe we’d be doing something different but she has left a stamp on our community and we wanted to celebrate that. To celebrate her, her accomplishments, her life. To respect what she built, and what she laid out. I don’t think that there’s anybody that has been able to take her crown,” says Perez.
So when creating the event, the promotion, the artists, and even the official T-shirt of the tribute night, Sonido Clash put in a lot of thought and consideration to what fans and non-fans might enjoy, a mixing of worlds. Perez says, “when we thought of the night we just had to give her the utmost respect so we decided to start thinking about what artists to book. We didn’t want to make it a male dominated scene. Our intentions weren’t to make it about us, it’s really about her and seeing what grew out of that.”

Last year’s event brought acclaimed DJ’s such as East Palo Alto native and Vegas resident DJ Yo Yolie, a look a like contest, photo booths and a cross-dresser who stole the show. “She did a whole three wardrobe changes on stage, sang the music, did the whole choreography and it just drove people nuts, like if you had Selena there, doing the moves. The outfit was on point,” says Perez. “We try to make everyone happy. It was a fun event. When we saw that room packed we knew that we accomplished something. The Back Bar SoFa has really opened its doors to us. San José doesn’t have too many venues that are easy to work with, that believe in you, that support you.”

Reflecting on the past, present and future,both Perez and Zepeda thank their fans the most for their continued success, not only with the Tribute night, but for all that they collaborate on with the San José community. “They believe in us and what we’re doing, we’re definitely setting a trend in San José for Latinos in general. You could go to a convention center and fill it up with 8,000 people but I feel like they’re poking their eyes out $60-70 a ticket, $10 a drink. We’re not just doing this for the capitalism, there’ s a community effort behind this to give people something that they need. Something that makes you feel good. It’s not just about the partying always either,” says Perez.

And to conclude, what is the sincerest form of flattery? Zepeda notes, “now there’s all these Selena parties popping up all over the Bay Area this year.”

If you want to catch the Bay Area’s original Selena Tribute event, Saturday at Back Bar SoFa will be the best place to celebrate the life and times of Selena, with Sonido Clash and a great atmosphere.