The Caliente Column
Los Rehenes: Doin' It All
By Doug Shannon (email@example.com)
Why do two of the top groups in Latin America come from the same small
town, Fresnillo, Zacatecas?
One music industry expert we spoke to joked that it's because "there's
nothing else to do in that town, so everyone tries to start a group."
We don't know what makes Fresnillo such fertile musical soil, but we
do know that Los Temerarios and Los Rehenes call it home.
Though the two groups may be neighbors, they're too busy touring to
see each other much, according to Los Rehenes' vocalist Javier Torres.
"We don't have much contact. We appreciate them and we get along well.
We talk to them whenever we see them," he said.
The seven-man group labored in obscurity during the eighties, recording
for tiny DMY Records.
But in 1992, after scoring regional hits like the reggae-cumbia
"Corazones Rotos" and the charanga "Traicionera," they signed with
Discos Sabinas (Disa) in Mexico and industry giant FonoVisa in the
U.S. FonoVisa recently rereleased Los Rehenes' DMY material on CD.
With their albums "En Grande," (1992) "Los Rehenes," (1993) and
"Ni El Primero, Ni El Ultimo," (1994) Los Rehenes have had more
hits than you can shake a stick at, and maybe more than they're
capable of performing on stage.
The band members play with the cohesion of an act that's been together
many years. Torres is helpful, informing the crowd of the song titles
and joking with the couples.
Unfortunately, when we checked them out, the group chose to play
four songs twice. A group as prolific as Los Rehenes would be better
served by showcasing its depth of strong material.
What sets Los Rehenes apart from other romantic groups is that they
sing about more than just romance. If they want to play a corrido
like "Mujeres Bravas" or "Mexico, Ya Regrese," they have two trumpet
players ready to step in.
Torres says he'd prefer not to be compared to other groups.
"I don't think you can compare us to anyone," he said.
"All of the groups have different personalities, and we all sing
our own songs. Every group takes advantage of what it has; it's not
Los Rehenes easily cover more musical turf in one album than many
groups do in a career, but Torres also records solo albums, with
Jalisco Band providing the background music.
His 1994 release "Javier Torres Con Banda" produced three hits;
"Ladron No," "Una Viuda Contenta," and "Maldita La Pobreza."
His second banda CD was just released.
Some people have wondered if the pressure of recording new material
every six months would make Torres step out of Los Rehenes. However,
he says he can have a solo career without leaving the group.
"I've proven that one can do both while respecting the qualities of
each one. I've never thought of leaving Los Rehenes," he said.
He also doesn't feel rushed.
"I didn't have to hurry. I have many songs that are just waiting
for a chance to be recorded. If I see that I can't record it in
the style of Los Rehenes, I'll include it in 'Javier Torres Con
Torres enjoys being close to a crowd, and we asked him whether he
preferred singing in ballrooms or outdoors.
"Both are fine. In a ballroom there's plenty of heat--the people
don't get cold. But they have more space to move around at an
outdoor dance," he said.
Los Rehenes are considering offers to play in Bolivia, Argentina,
and Uruguay. As one of the hardest working bands in la onda grupera,
they're going to keep doing what it takes to stay on top: recording
many styles of music and touring constantly.
Here's the band's lineup: Ben Torres, drums; Jesus Lambero, bass;
Jesus Ortega, guitar; Roberto Torres, second voice; Gerardo Torres,
percussions; Francisco Ramon, keyboards; and Javier Torres, vocals.