By Ashley Alvarez
As children we dream boundlessly with an unadulterated impression of our own potential. We believe we can be president, doctors, rockstars, etc. The list is endless. Then somewhere along the way we begin to second guess ourselves and slowly abandon our aspirations. Second-year education major, Joel Hernandez, isn’t as easily derailed.
Hernandez is a member of Los Disidentes, an on-the-rise local campirano group. A regional Mexican music genre that likes romantic ballads, and corridos which are stories. Their music derives from Campo, which are small towns in Mexico. Hernandez is the rhythm guitarist of the group. He and the other three members have recently been featured on the Spanish network Hit TV show Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento, a reality TV competition that follows the same premise as X-Factor. Candidates compete in the talent of their choice through four rounds for the grand prize of $100,000 along with career launching support from LBI Media and EstrellaTV.
Hernandez’s stardom has been years in the making. He began playing guitar at the age of 14 at the recommendation of his uncle. “My uncle knew to play a little bit. Initially he taught me a chord, then from there gave me a book of Beatle songs, so I learned the whole book.” At the time, Hernandez was a freshman at Channel Islands High school in Oxnard, CA.
Hernandez recognized his passion for the guitar almost immediately. But it was not until later that he realized his love of music campirana.
“The music has always been around me ever since I was a kid,” says Hernandez, “My dad was born here and my mom was born in Mexico. Together, my parents keep me musically and culturally balanced and grounded to my culture. My dad would listen to like rock and rap and basically everything. Me and my dad are similar in that we listen to everything.”
Within a three-month span Hernandez became adept at playing guitar. He would take every opportunity to practice, “I would borrow my uncle’s guitar when I went to his house and I would work yards with my grandpa, he’s a landscaper, on the weekends and I saved up and bought myself a guitar.” From that point forward, Hernandez was committed to his instrument.
“I really loved it, it’s all I wanted to do, like I would just get home from school and I wouldn’t do homework or anything I would just be playing guitar. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I started playing Spanish music. I played Spanish music at the request of a girl I really liked and after that I got super into it and I realized wow I actually do really like this style of music.” Hernandez’s favorite songs are those from the 1940s and 50s, “They’re songs about getting drunk at the bar, like a girl broke your heart so you’re gonna down a bottle of tequila and not remember anything. It was just songs like that: really depressing songs.”
Hernandez’s experience inspired him to form a local band here at school. “I found a group on twitter here at UCI and I messaged them, ‘hey we should jam out,” and they were down.’” They played their first gig at the UCI Mesa organized event, “La Bienvenida” under the name Grupo Alcones, which they eventually changed to Los Disidentes.
“Our style of music is just two guitars and a base. We play simple melodies, and it’s more lyrical,” Hernandez says. “They call them letra de la gente, or lyrics for the people. It encompasses topics about being poor and growing up in the field and just a lower-class situation and making your way up. A lot of the ways people did that in Mexico was through drug smuggling. We sing corridos which are like stories. Corridos can be really political. There are Narco Corridos, which talk about drug trade in Mexico. Then there are Ranchera’s which are more heartfelt like love songs, Bolero’s which are more romantic songs, and Cumbia’s which are really rhythmic and are more like to dance too, and finally, zapatiados which are really dance centered.”
Hernandez’s group has been more than successful, considering their TV debut on Estrella TV’s Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento.
“For years my grandpa had been telling me to go, to do it, but I didn’t feel that I was good enough yet,” Hernandez said. Then, after a visit to his family’s home in Jalisco, Mexico this last December, Hernandez was invigorated to return and get the ball rolling on his musical venture. Homer, the band’s lead guitar player, made the call to try out for Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento.
Of the 9,000 people who auditioned Los Disidentes earned one of 40 spaces. They appeared on live TV before a mass audience and four celebrity guest judges: Joss Favela, Pepe Garza, Don Cheto, and Ana Barbara. Los Disidentes advanced to the finals before being sent home.
Although they may not have won the grand prize, they didn’t walk out empty handed. “Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento” gave them mass exposure and earned them accolades. “We’ve had more doors open to us. We’ve had offers to meet with radio stations, play gigs in different states, and we got a call from a record manager to meet up. Hopefully that works out.”
Hernandez has faith that their musical venture has just begun and foresees great things in the near future.