Radio La Chusma

At the front of Radio La Chusma, a band that blends together Afro-Mexica beats, Reggae and Cumbias to create a vibrant border-world beat sound, stands Selina Nevarez at no more than 5′ 1”. Her small statue is misleading to her big role in the border band. Not only does her powerful voice provide the high voice that completes their sound but her uplifting lyrics and positive attitude reflects the message of love and acceptance that the band strives to spread throughout the Southwest and rest of the world.

The blending of cultures and sounds, the emphasis on history and heritage, and the crowd-inspiring lyrics is what this group is all about. Lyrics such as those in Keep Movin’, “Life is too short to be staring at a clock. Get up and keep on moving to the rhythm that rocks,” captures the fun-loving attitude of Radio La Chusma’s region and is simply perfect to get up and dance to. It’s no wonder why their song, “Adelante,” is the first and only song with Spanish lyrics used to represent an American city, why their shows become packed with people of all ages and backgrounds, and why their songs are played around the world.

According to Selina, this band is out to prove to the world that there is beauty in blending of cultures, border regions, and that music is all about celebrating life. Besides her work with the band, Selina is also working on the release of her first solo album entitled It’s About Time. Inspired by her mother, artists such as jazz queen Ella Fitzgerald and Chavela Vargas, Selina grew up breathing music and has since then transformed her passion into her career. She shares about her experience with the band, her solo jazz career, her dreams of becoming an educator and why music is such an important aspect of her life.

1. How did you become interested in music and in singing?
I’ve always just been into music, it’s always been around me and a part of my life. I grew up listening to my parents singing and I learned harmony by listening to my dad sing along to Beatle’s records. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t singing. I always had to sing Linda Ronstadt’s Canciones de Mi Padre songs at family parties. My mom has a tape recorded of me when I was two years old and I was just jumping up and down singing Ten Little Monkeys. So I always have and I always will sing, it makes me happy and it’s a great feeling.

2. Who was your greatest inspiration growing up?
I would have to say my mom, for sure. She worked so hard and she has this never-quit attitude. She was the one who introduced me to music. She always played music for me whether it was Disney records or the Wee Sing tapes. When I was 6 months old, she took me to go see Annie and one of her favorite stories to tell was that I just sat there quietly watching.

3. What artists have influenced your work?
As far as my musical influences go, I just love all music. I like classical music, jazz- I love Ella Fitzgerald, she’s what got me into jazz- and old school Mexican artists like Chavela Vargas. Basically, I like anything with soul. I don’t think singing should always be so pretty. I think it should have more soul in it because life isn’t always so pretty.

4. Not many people know about your solo career, can you tell me about your recent album?
Basically when I decided to start recording music I was working with this artist named Tony Buenes aka Mano Sol. He showed me a beat and I wrote something for it. My solo work is a lot more jazzy than what we do with Radio La Chusma. It turned into us performing shows and started an album. I’ve been working on my solo album, It’s About Time. It’s called because it is about time and also because it’s about time I finish it. I’ve been working on my album for a few years now and finally it’s almost finished.

5. How did you get involved with Radio La Chusma?
I started my solo album in 2005 and one day Radio La Chusma saw me performing. Ernie (the lead guitarist and vocalist) came up to me in Ernie style and asked, “Hey, when are you going to start working with us?” I told him, “Whenever you ask me.” After that, I started with them right away. When I first heard Radio La Chusma’s music, I loved the sound of it and their message. I always heard my part in their music, like my top vocal belonged there. When I first started practicing with them I just sang that part I’ve always heard and it just fit; it’s that other harmony, that high voice, that was missing. It’s been really good ever since.

6. How is Radio La Chusma different from other bands?
We like to share our music and I think our music has an eclectic sound and it’s likable to all kinds of people. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, how old you are, what your background is, we’ll probably play something that you enjoy and that you want to move to. I think that comes from being a positive group that tries to spread a message of love and understanding and acceptance and just laughter and fun and life. We’re trying to be one of the few bands out there that promotes a good message. There is so much trash out there that’s filled with sex and violence and drugs and that’s not what music is about. Music is about a celebration of life.

7. How do you incorporate your culture and history into your music?
One thing for sure is that if you don’t know where you have been, then you don’t know who you are or where you’re going. I think right now in our society a lot of people feel kinda lost as far as who you are as an individual and I think a big part of that is because we’ve lost the history of our culture. People think that their history began 200 years ago in this country and it didn’t. It actually began hundreds and hundreds of years ago in Mexico and Europe and Africa; it’s a mixture of all of those places. So we have a huge mixture in our culture. For hundreds of years, indigenous cultures were kept in secret, kept silent, being native was embarrassing, shamed upon and people didn’t relate themselves to that. We’re native to this land and I think that’s one of the reasons why our culture is so strong and why we have such a vibrant society because we feel that energy from this land, being from this land. We want to bring that our in our music. It’s a history lesson at the same time that it’s a lesson about love and all that stuff. We want to remind people of that history.

8. What is like being the only female in the group?
Strangely it’s really no different from anything. I never feel weird or awkward. We’re a very close family and sometimes I think it’s more important for a band to be a family rather than friends. We don’t really hang out outside the band and party. We meet for band and we meet for work. When we go on the road together we’re stuck with each other for days and there’s never a problem. We have a lot of fun, everyone’s funny, everyone’s open, we like to play frisbee and go swimming, and just have fun. The guys are like my big brothers. I grew up in a house with two older sisters so I’ve never had a brother in my life. They call me the annoying little sister and I guess I am.

9. What advice would you give to a young girl who wants to start a music career?
My advice would be to never to stop. Never stop, especially because you don’t think you can or somebody else doesn’t think you can or there’s somebody telling you to get a real job or that’s a horrible business or whatever. You have to do what you love and if you’re just trying to be a millionaire, you probably shouldn’t be doing that. You have to be determined and you can’t be knocked down just because someone doesn’t like you. Not everyone in this world is going to like what you do and that’s no reason to stop anything you’re doing whether it’s music or business or school, you just have to keep doing what you want to do for you. Just keep going because eventually it will pay off. That’s what makes life worth living, living it and not hiding away.

By Dejeanne Doublet

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