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ENCORE: Bakalao Stars On Charlotte’s Golden Age Of Rock En Español

Bakalao Stars.JPG
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Bakalao Stars are one of Charlotte's long-standing Latin rock bands.

If you lived in Charlotte in the early 2000’s, you lived through the golden age of Rock En Español in the Queen City. Latin reggae band Bakalao Stars (led by Christian Anzola) took root during this fertile musical period, a time of locally-produced and supported Latin music which was heralded as “the soundtrack of Charlotte’s racial and cultural evolution.”

So what happened to those bands in this city? And what is happening now with Bakalao Stars, one of the remaining Rock En Español acts from that generation?

"The outcome is better when you’re open-minded to music in different languages. I listen to hip-hop in French, and I don’t know what they’re saying, but it’s amazing. That’s just what music is all about. The language doesn’t have barriers when it comes to music."
– Christian Anzola, lead singer of Bakalao Stars

Interview Highlights:

On creating music with Bakalao Stars during the early 2000’s:

It was a really big movement [Rock En Español]. It got to the point that there were two [Latin] bands playing the same night at different venues.However, after a couple of years, it died down. We had all of these [local] bands performing and Latin-American Grammy nominees coming to play in Charlotte, but everything fell apart a bit. It was strange. I think one of the causes for that was [the conversation about] illegal immigrants. So a lot of people left the country or were afraid to come to shows. We went from selling out a show with 200 people to playing just to 80. But we had a lot of fun making music. And we’re still here, after 17 years of going through a lot of good things and bad things. We’re still rocking Charlotte and making Rock En Español or Latin music.

On starting Bakalao Stars (and impressing their parents with their music):

Since I was a kid living in Colombia, my brother [who also started Bakalao Stars] gave me a drum set when I first moved to the States in ‘97. So we both started playing, and we always had that love for music. It’s something we both really enjoyed. It’s something we started as a hobby to have fun, to be creative, to do something different from our everyday lives instead of just going to school [and] working.[Our music is] a melting pot. Some of our songs are a little more reggae and Latin, some songs lean more towards punk and a little bit of hip-hop. It’s all over the place, but it’s all about good energy. I think when we perform, some people come up to us and say, “I don’t understand half of the stuff you say, but you’re energy and liveliness to your shows is great.” My parents come to the shows, and sometimes Bakalao Stars does covers from really old-school Colombian bands, and they say, “Man, I remember listening to that when I was 20 years old!” To me, it’s just being proud of who you are as a person and expressing it in music. Being Colombian and growing up here in the States, I’m proud. I’m a Colombian-American. I have dual citizenship.

On the future of alt-Latinx music in Charlotte:

Luckily enough, it’s growing again with different bands. And what’s cool is there are different genres. There’s CHÓCALA, who are a little more instrumental and completely different from Bakalao. There’s Jahlistic, who are more focused on reggae. So we’re spreading out, and a lot of the bands are releasing new music. I’m really excited. We’re moving forward.

Music featured in this #WFAEAmplifier chat:

Bakalao Stars - “Amante”
Bakalao Stars - “Boom”
Bakalao Stars - “Cumbia”
Bakalao Stars - “Rudeboy”
Bakalao Stars - “Ola”
Bakalao Stars - “La Muda”

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Joni Deutsch is happy to call Charlotte home as WFAE's manager for on-demand content and audience engagement, where she's led the first Charlotte Podcast Festival (named one of the “best podcast conferences” by Buzzsprout) and helped produce such podcasts as FAQ City, SouthBound, Inside Politics, Work It and the Apple Podcast chart-topping series She Says. In addition to being an NPR Music contributor, Joni is also the creator and host of WFAE’s Charlotte music podcast Amplifier, named “Best Podcast” by Charlotte Magazine and honored for excellence in arts and music podcasting by the local Edward R. Murrow Awards and The Webby Awards (called “The Internet’s Highest Honor” by The New York Times).