Letters from the Issue of January 16, 2003

This is Miami's musical moment!

Let's try this: All rock music is almost inherently a watered-down derivative of its roots. The Rolling Stones started as a blues cover band; Elvis sang the blues watered down for white teenagers; the Police (cited by Sokol) just mixed some New Wave guitars and reggae; and if you follow the roots of the music through to jazz, you can even find a huge influence on all of modern music from español roots via Afro-Cuban rhythms and percussion.

That's not to say "watered down" music can't be excellent. The Stones, before they zombiefied on their most recent Night of the Living Stones tour, were a kick-ass band. Elvis was cool before he found a prescription pad. And I'll happily listen to Dizzy or Miles play Latin-influenced music. So to dismiss a music genre because it's derivative is ridiculous.

While there are indeed crappy rock en español bands, this is a huge moment of creative blossoming in the genre -- and a watershed moment for Miami. Think Seattle grunge gone tropical, flannel replaced by linen, heroin replaced by mojitos and cerveza. Not only are the record companies here, increasingly the bands are either from here or are playing here on a regular basis. International bands like La Mosca and Juanes have played here recently. Local acts like Jorge Moreno or Bacilos are getting deals and putting out great records. And there is a wealth of untapped local talent you can see and hear for the price of a beer.

As an example, in the first week of December you could spend an intimate Monday night with Shakira and 20,000 of her best friends at American Airlines Arena, rock out with Jaguares at Billboardlive on Wednesday, get down on Thursday night in Little Havana with the Spam All-Stars at Hoy Como Ayer, head back to Billboardlive on Friday to catch Juanes, and increase your cool factor by catching the as-yet unsigned (but surely soon-to-be-famous) Roberto Poveda at Café Bohemio on Saturday. I'll put that week up against any music scene anywhere, anytime.

And speaking Spanish isn't a necessity. As a gringo who only knows one phrase (mas cerveza, por favor), the music and emotions speak for themselves. While London in the mid-Sixties, San Francisco in the late Sixties, or Seattle in the early Nineties may be better known, they're already history. Miami in early 2000s is happening now, and it's not too late to jump in the deep end.

Errol Portman

Coral Gables

¡Aprenda el Idioma, Coño!

It's criminal the way they use language like a weapon:Matthew Altman's article on David Caruso and CSI: Miami was excellent ("Is David Caruso Too Good To Be True?" December 19). It's one of my favorite shows and it definitely has put Miami back on the TV screen, where it was largely absent for a while. One thing has rattled me, though -- one of those annoying aspects of this place. That is, we are expected to speak Spanish in our own country while some won't get off their asses and learn English.

It was the exchange in which Horatio Caine (the character played by Caruso) is speaking to another officer in Spanish, and a federal agent asks, "What did she say?" Caine shoots back to the fed: Learn the language. The agent should have retorted, "Well, if you know English, then speak it. And if the person you're speaking to doesn't, tell him to learn it."

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a realist. It is always a good thing to know another language, especially if you work in an area permeated by that language, like Spanish in Miami. But it's one thing to be exposed to another language or culture out of interest or admiration and a totally different thing for that culture to be forced upon you in your own country.

Are some newcomers here too stupid to learn it as most others did, or as mine and millions of others' ancestors did? And before some ignorant Miamian, of which there are many, begins screaming that I am biased, consider these four things: 1. I do speak Spanish. 2. My wife is Hispanic, although I am not. 3. Imagine a Colombian, Mexican, Argentine, or Venezuelan police officer barking at one of his compatriots: Learn English! 4. I and others like me who do have fluency in Spanish choose not to speak it in this town out of choice.

So I let that Farm Stores, service station, or store clerk learn a little English. ¿Entiende?

Paul E. Czekanski

Cutler Ridge

Where's the When?

Even a crime-scene investigator wouldn't have had a clue: Who. What. When. Where. Great article by Matthew Alman about CSI: Miami ("Is David Caruso Too Good to Be True?" December 19), but unless I'm very much mistaken, all the W's were covered except "When."

I scanned the considerable length of the piece first to discover when the show airs, only to find out by asking someone. (Monday nights, CBS, 10:00 p.m.)

The good news: The piece generated my interest, which takes quite a bit. (I loved NYPD Blue and Miami Vice.) Thank you.

Lorinda Bloch

Bay Harbor Islands

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