By Jeff Moses
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By Roger Calamaio
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"Legendary" might be a diluted description for a band these days, but there's no other way to label Mexican rockers El Tri and their frontman Alex Lora. The dude is — how do we put this? — kind of a big deal.
The names may not ring immediate bells, but over the course of 40-plus years, Lora and his band have solidified their place in the annals of music by paving the way for Spanish-language rock 'n' roll.
In his hometown of Ciudad de Puebla de los Ángeles, México, Lora is deemed a "distinguished Pueblan citizen," granting him the title of ambassador from the city where the Battle of Puebla — for which Cinco de Mayo is celebrated — took place 150 years ago. The keys to the city of Miami have been bestowed upon him. The city of Guadalajara, Mexico, erected a statue of him in his honor. He even has his own day: November 10, Alex Lora Day. And when the London Olympic Games get under way this July, Lora will be there as an honorable representative of Mexico.
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El Tri got their start with Lora at the helm in the late '60s, when the group originally performed as vocal group Three Souls in My Mind. Their first two albums were sung exclusively in English, but by the third album, Lora felt the need to identify with his native language, so he opted to sing in Spanish, helping to give birth to present-day rock en español. Now with more than 40 albums under his belt, Lora looks at the current music landscape and smiles.
"As one of the original pioneers of rock en español, it pleases me to see how far the music has come," Lora says thoughtfully and deliberately in his raspy voice. "With each passing day, there are more bands that emerge — more styles, more promotion — but most importantly, each day brings a growing audience, which gives this brand of music more force. So it really pleases me to see how far this movement has progressed and how it continues to grow each day."
Lora continues to be a patron of his beloved rock 'n' roll by working to put together presentations such as the Chido Fest, which is scheduled to visit Phoenix (one of only seven stops in the States) this weekend.
"It's going to be something really cool because the public is going to have the opportunity to hear various styles of rock, and it also gives us a chance to present our new release, which is album number 44 in El Tri's discography," he says.
Libertad Incondicional was recorded live at the Santa Martha female prison and contains new songs like, "El Amor Es Como Una Droga," the bicentennial song "Injusta Revolución," and the song that is being used to campaign against the violence in Mexico City, "Tierra en Llamas," he says.
As cherished as he and his band have been in his native Mexico and around the world, Lora and company might encounter some people who will be less enthusiastic about their presence.
Last year, supporters of human rights group Puente descended upon US Airways Center to protest the appearance of Mexican icon and ranchera singer Vicente Fernandez, in light of the recent passage of Senate Bill 1070. And again just two weeks ago, a number of protesters showed their displeasure with Mexican supergroup Maná for their performance in the same building.
"We've spoken out against these types of laws before, but for this upcoming performance what we're proposing to the public is that they forget about this present threat for one moment," Lora says. "[We want the people] to feel like they're in their home, on their land, and [we want them] to vent their frustrations with us using rock 'n' roll.
"That's what music is for, after all."