The Caliente Column

Candiani: Puts His Soul Into It
By Doug Shannon (

The title of Candiani's debut CD promises a "Nueva Onda Grupera" in
Tejano music.

Throughout the album's five cumbias, three rancheras, and two ballads,
Gabriel Candiani, 27, and his group use soulful vocals, harmonies, and
chord progressions to deliver on that promise.

"I feel it's time for us to get out of the same chord progressions,
rhythms, and arrangements and put more soul into it," he said.
"I would like to see more colors in the music."

Candiani's first single, "En Lo Obscuro De La Noche," is a perfect
example of his colorful style. The brassy cumbia features a reggae
groove, R&B bass line, and even a verse in Portuguese.

"'Lo mastico,' I can chew on it," he said when asked about his
Portuguese fluency.

"I know what it means, but to have an eloquent conversation, no.
I wrote the song for an ex-girlfriend from Rio de Janiero, and I wanted
to sing part of it in her own language."

He also speaks Italian and is of Italian descent.

Born and raised in Monterrey, he grew up in a city that's recognized
as the world capital of norten~o and grupero music. During the eighties
he was a member of PEGASSO.

"Our groups used to compete against each other," he said. "There was
MANA, which was called Sombrero Verde, and the musicians who now play

He now resides in Houston.

He began making waves on the Tejano scene when he produced two of
1994's biggest CD's: ELIDA Y AVANTE's "Atrevete" and FAMA's "Enamorate."
Both albums were released on Henry Gonzales' label, Voltage Records.

"Henry believed in me and my music from the beginning, when everybody
else thought I was a nut. When I started this whole thing with
'Atrevete,' like putting R&B vocals on cumbias, people thought I was
crazy," he said.

He said he will continue to produce other new artists such as REBELDE
who are interested in pushing the envelope of what Tejano and grupero
music are all about.

Though Candiani is booked by Voltage Entertainment Agency, his
recording contract is with EMI Latin. He said Eric Jimenez, who left
LA FIEBRE to join Candiani, convinced him to give EMI a try.

"Eric told me, 'EMI is so great; (EMI Latin VP) Manolo Gonzalez is
so cool.' And I really wanted Eric in my band. I'd already had an offer
from another company and we were just about to close the deal. So I went
over to EMI without much hope of getting their support.

"But Eric sat down with me and said, 'Let's give it one shot.' So I
made Manolo listen to the whole CD and when we were done I could see
that he liked it so much. Right there and then I decided I wanted to
be with Capitol EMI, and I signed right away."

Candiani said that Eric's departure of La Fiebre for his group was

"I have a great friendship with the guys from La Fiebre. Pete Espinoza
is a the coolest guy," he said.

With Tejano-stud Eric on board along with several other talented and
photogenic musicians, many critics believe Candiani has the combination
of talent, image, management, and label support to take it to the top.

The group has just started touring but Candiani promises that the live
show will be engrossing and fun to watch. Although they're a new act,
Candiani said they won't play for peanuts since he and Eric have
already built solid reputations in the Tejano industry.

Their ultimate goal is international success and the key is marketing,
he said.

"People don't listen to just one style anymore. You can just turn on
your television and be exposed to so much. If you market yourself well,
you will find the people who have been exposed to what you like, whether
you're in San Antonio, Dallas, or Miami."