La Mafia's difficult road to the top

By Chito de la Torre
    To see him singing on television, the way he does for example on his latest
music video ("Mejores Que Ella" off of the "Un Millon De Rosas" CD), you'd
think that life was grand for Oscar De La Rosa, lead singer of La Mafia.  And
Oscar admits that "it's been fun."  But  things weren't always so.  And things
still aren't where he'd like them to be. 

    "We wouldn't make any money to buy food," remembers Oscar about the early
days.  "We'd carry sandwiches, bologna with mayonnaise. Every once in a while,
we'd have cheese."  Traveling in a van and sleeping seven or so to a room was
how life used to be.

    Oscar, who doesn't like talking about his age or his personal life in
general, grew up around music.  His father owned a night club, Henry's Night
Club.  It was Oscar and his brother's job to clean up the place.

    "Bands would leave equipment.  Me and Leonard would get there early to clean
up and we'd play.  My dad saw we were interested."  So he encouraged the boys.
 But it certainly wasn't like it is now.

    "I used to play drums.  Then with the first group, I played  keyboard.  I
wouldn't sing."  That's when they were still the Mirasoles and they were
recording tunes like "Piojito."

    But by the time they recorded as La Mafia in 1980, Oscar was working the mike
just fine. "Something came over me that I wanted to be a singer," says Oscar.

    They worked constantly. "As long as I've been performing, I haven't taken any
time off to kick back and relax."  But about six albums into their career,
"Things got better."  

    La Mafia became the premier Tejano band, winning just about every award there
was in the genre.  But success almost proved more fatal than failure.

    "About `89 was when I was frustrated," says Oscar.  "It was too much.  It
gets to a point where you have no life.  At that time were doing 2 albums a
year.  It was really stressful."

    Then just as it appeared to be too much, La Mafia exploded again in a new
direction.  "Con Tanto Amor" became the last completely Tejano album they

    "There's a lot of groups that are afraid to try something new.  You have to
do something that you want to do rather than live with, `I could have at least

    What Oscar and La Mafia tried was to move into the pop arena.

    "We had been in Mexico and had seen what was happening.  I was seeing the
type of music that they played, and I wanted to try it."  That was 1990 and
"Estas Tocando Fuego" was released.  According to Oscar that is the album
"which sold the most records at that time."

    "We wanted to try something new.  We had more pop cumbias, pop boleros and
still had this flavor of us being from Texas.  We were the first ones to
attempt it."

    "We attempted it.  We were willing to take that chance," say Oscar and adds
that many groups are not willing to go out on a limb for their music.  "I wish
they'd take that risk and attempt something different.  If they're successful
they can be proud.  And I'm proud of what we've accomplished."

    For Oscar, the rewards are more than monetary.  "What's so cool is when you
go to a show and the place is full of people and you think `God, they're here
to see me.'  That's probably the most awesome feeling."

    Never satisfied, La Mafia is already planning their next CD. "I know where
it's going.  It's going to be exactly what our fans have been expecting."  If
you don't know what Oscar means by that maybe his ultimate goal will give you
some insight.

    "What I hope to see is La Mafia become what the Rolling Stones, The Beatles,
and The Eagles have become in the American world, but I want that to happen in
the Latin world.  I don't think I'm there yet."  
--30-- (printed with permission)