The Next Wave

A dedicated group of Latin Americans breaks the sound barrier with rock en espanol

Boom is over for another week, and for the rest of the night Posada must play romantic ballads from a pre-set playlist.

When Heftel bought Super Q in December, it was decided that the station would function as the company's flagship for young people. Posada got stuck at Heftel's Radio Ritmo, which switched from a tropical format to an all-romantic music format. But so far the rock DJ has been allowed to continue with Boom. Posada recently sealed a deal to do a second show, in addition to Boom: a syndicated weekly Latin rock countdown for the USA Latino Network that will reach Hispanic listeners in twenty cities around the country, including Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, and Houston.

"It's clear to me that my role in this is to act as a bridge to the new generation of immigrants," asserts Posada. "And with the economic and political situation in Latin America as it is, the fact that people are going to keep coming is something that can't be avoided. One of the things that most surprises me about this whole thing is that we're in the United States, the country with the most cultural impact around the world, and you're in a little safe house speaking your language and listening to rock in espa*ol. The musical genre that the Americans invented, made in Spanish being played in the U.S. It's really one of the most bizarre things. Ever since the days of the Conquest, the Latins have sucked up everything we've been given, and this is the moment that we're starting to throw up everything that we've taken in, everything that we've processed. At this point in time it's starting to come out."

Two weeks after the Super Q Internacional anniversary party at the Hard Rock Cafe, Latin rock returns to the club. This time Super Q is hosting a dinner for the Colombian band Estados Alterados, who live in Medellin. On one side of a long table, four winners of a "Have Dinner with Estados Alterados" contest talk with the members of the band, who've deposited into a neighboring booth a mountain of bags filled with new clothes and souvenirs they've purchased during a day's shopping spree. Their manager, their video producer, and several representatives of their U.S. label, Vedisco, sit at the other end of the table with Super Q's Jose Carlos Oritz. At a table across the room, Kike Posada, producer Gustavo Menendez, and concert promoter Manny Garcia sit discussing Posada and Menendez's plans to open a venue for live Latin rock bands.

Estados Alterados' singer, Elvis, who has bleached hair and wears thick Elvis Costello-style glasses, digs into a steak, as the group's new CD plays in the background. He enthusiastically describes the growing rock scene in Colombia, especially in his hometown of Medellin. "The growth of rock music in Spanish is incredible," he says, "but we've still got a lot of territory to conquer."

Last year the band came to Miami to do some radio promotion, and they also performed at the Stephen Talkhouse. According to Elvis, they attracted a pretty big crowd at the club, because people in Miami had seen their videos on MTV Latino. Suddenly a scream rings out behind Elvis, and a flood of teenagers races to the other side of the room -- it's time to start dancing to "La Macarena" again.

Melissa Franco, a recent graduate of Coral Gables High, sits next to Elvis. She confesses to listening to Super Q Internacional every night. "It's the only station that gives regular play to rock groups in Spanish," she says. "For me it's the only way to keep up with what my friends are listening to back in Peru. And a lot of the songs I already know. I hear something and I remember where I was when it came out. It's like a way of remembering my country."

Franco's friend Salome Gavidia agrees. Even though she's just arrived from Peru to attend Miami-Dade Community College with Franco, she's already discovered Super Q. According to Franco, all of her South American friends know to tune in at 8:00 for the show. But not her Cuban-American classmates. "They haven't heard about it," she notes. "They still think Super Q is just salsa."

As Elvis and the other band members start autographing Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts for the restaurant's excited Spanish-speaking staff, and Super Q's Ortiz hands out Estados Alterados CDs, it seems as if the scene could be taking place in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, or Madrid. But as the diners head for the exit, the illusion quickly disappears. A frilly guaracha dress worn by salsa queen Celia Cruz hangs by the stairs in the corner, a white stretch lace sacrilege in this temple of rock, an inescapable reminder that, after all, this is still Miami.

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