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On the Census: an Intersection of Music and Activism

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I first met Josh Norek about ten years ago when he sent me a low budget video of his Latino-Jewish band the Hip Hop Hoodíos. It was a song about Chanukah sung in Spanish and English, and there were plenty of surreal shots of the "Bagel babe;" a hot young thing wearing a bra made from that circular staple -- even in a Jacuzzi!

I sensed there was an unusual mind behind this.

Further down the road, Josh sent me an email about a new event; the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) that he was co-organizing in New York City. I wished him well. He continued to send me press releases about bands I had never heard of but which were pretty damned good. I started to trust his taste.

Five years ago, he helped Tomas Cookman launch the company "Nacional Records." Between them, they had tons of experience managing and promoting "Rock en Español" acts, and soon they began aggregating the strongest roster of Latin Alternative Music extant.

Then, prior to the past presidential election, Josh sent an email around, saying he was taking a sabbatical (or should that be shabattical?) from the music biz, and donating significant time to his favorite grassroots organization, Voto Latino, working to register and activate young Latinos in battleground states to get the vote out. Since then he has also gotten his radio show "The Latin Alternative" up and syndicated. So when I heard that Josh was going to be in town, I jumped at the chance to interview him. His time as usual, was tight; just half an hour, so we plowed into it despite the noise from construction on an adjacent floor.

No matter where we fall on the immigration issue, the undeniable fact is that the burgeoning Latino population is changing the face and culture of the USA. I wanted Josh to talk about this, to reflect on the relationship between music, demographics and his new work with Voto Latino's Census 2010 initiative. He did that and more; his conversation was so far ranging that I may have to present those parts of it that dealt specifically with Rock en Español, Nacional, the LAMC and the state of the music industry in general, at a later date.

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