Oishi Barrio Featured Artist: Ruben Molina

“Create your own sound, Write your own story”

The soundtrack to the first moments of Oishi Barrio will be DJ’ed by community music historian and “Chicano Soul: Recordings and History of an American Culture” author Ruben Molina. 

Molina’s book, released in 2007, is the first-ever in-depth exploration of the rhythm and blues and soul music released by Chicano bands in the 1950s and ’60s. It is also pivotal in understanding the diverse array of influences on the genre, real or imagined.

It is now considered one of the most important works on Latinx music and culture released, being referenced everywhere from NPR to being used in numerous schools as an essential guide into the history, evolution, and tragically forgotten Latinx contribution to the genre.

“That music was poetry,” Molina smiled as he shut his eyes. “The feelings inside of you they caused, they’re good forever. But since a lot of this music was only pressed to 200-250 records, they’re very localized and many are lost.”

The 67-year-old born and bred Angelino that fell in love with the genre by collecting records as a boy never stopped. 

Molina has been able to compile an impressive collection of vinyl throughout his life, becoming at the same time a historian of the genre. When he wanted to find out more about the artists that recorded the music though, Molina realized there was little to no information about them. He knew that the experiences of the aging musicians needed to be told before they were lost to time like the records they released.

It was then that Molina realized he would have to tell their stories himself.

He went on a self-funded whirlwind tour of the western U.S trying to find old artists and bands from the ‘50s and ‘60s era. His research took him to El Paso, San Antonio, Albuquerque, Houston, and Dallas among others. But it was in San Antonio where he gathered together and interviewed his childhood heroes, like Dimas Garza, and other greats from the Chicano soul and R & B genre.

For many of them, it was the first time in years anyone had talked to them about the music they had made as youths. 

All of the first-person accounts and stories Molina was able to gather would form the basis of “Chicano Soul.” 

Due to the book’s impact, Latinos now have their own very real chapter in the history of American Rock & Roll. Some of the first readers of Molina’s book now teach it in their classes at the university level and we are seeing an influx of Latinx musicians and bands adopting the Chicano or Brown-eyed soul sound. 

Artists like Chicano Batman and Cuco might not be making the music they do without their Chicano soul forefathers and Molina’s arduous work to document their journey.

“Each one of these songs is a personal story,” Molina admired. “I feel satisfied that our culture is being recognized and Chicano soul is spreading.”