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June 26, 2008

Julieta Venegas: A Waifish Mexican Rocker You've Never Heard Of

Julieta Venegas
Venegas and her trusty accordion.
AP Photo

Starting today, the Daily Traveler will be hosting Boom Box, a weekly breakdown of the international music scene--from the latest artists to the most out-of-the-way music festivals--written by John Oseid, the author of Conde Nast Traveler's monthly Where Are You? puzzler.

I have an obsession and her name is Julieta Venegas.

These days the hottest rock music comes out of the Latin world and a waifish Mexican rockera you've probably never heard of leads the pack. Julieta Venegas was born in California, but the Tijuana-raised singer is no crossover queen--her eclectic Grammy-winning pop and rock compositions are all-Spanish-all-the-time. She's a rich and poetic lyricist, with a voice at times sweet and bouncy, at times haunting. Oh dear, stop me before I hit "Repeat" yet again.

Now you can get an easy Julieta fix yourself. Filmed onstage in Mexico City, the newly released concert DVD Julieta Venegas MTV Unplugged not only showcases her virtuosity--she plays accordion, acoustic guitar, and piano--but it's a lesson on the high-caliber contemporary Mexican music. Venegas rearranged her best-known songs with backing by everything from traditional Mexican brass to cellos. She's joined onstage by double-Oscar-winning Argentine composer Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain, Babel), who accompanies her on banjo, while Spanish hip-hop artist La Mala Rodriquez and Brazilian star Marisa Monte chime in as well. Some concert clips are posted on the Web site of the Spanish music channel MTV Tr3s, and the full concert DVD is available here.

For all things Julieta, pick up her hits album Realmente-Lo-Mejor. It includes her biggest international success, "Me Voy" (in which she matter-of-factly dumps a lover), the boppy, romantic tune "Limon y Sal," and the light-rap "Eres Para Mi."

Her playful and inventive videos are posted on both YouTube and MTV Tr3s. Don't speak Spanish? No hay problema! Here's one fan's fun blog on how to get the most out of Spanish videos.

Visitors to New York can catch Venegas headlining Central Park's Summerstage on July 12. She will also be at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square on September 11. A full international tour schedule is on her Myspace page.

Look for me; I'll be the gringo with stars in his eyes.


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