The Caliente Column

Fito Olivares: Te Pone A Bailar
By Doug Shannon (

If any group knows how to create a traffic jam on the dance floor, it's
Fito Olivares y La Pura Sabrosura. They're the ultimate cumbia/charanga
party band.

In fact, firefighters in San Antonio had to shut down a Fito Olivares
dance at San Antonio's Hemisfair Area in 1993 when people started
dancing in the aisles, blocking the fire exits.

Fito, the sax player, and brothers Javier and Jaime, the vocalist and
keyboardist, grew up in Ciudad Camargo, Tamaulipas. Fito was studying
to be an accountant before he learned to play the sax.

"When I was 15, I felt restless to play music; I liked it a lot. My
father got me interested in playing the saxophone, a very beautiful
instrument. At 16, I started playing professionally."

He still has the first sax his father bought him. He owns a tenor sax
and keeps all four alto saxes that he has used in the group.

Now Fito and his wife have three sons. The oldest is seven and is
learning to play the drums.

Fito, Javier, and Jaime came to Houston in 1977 and with several
other musicians formed La Pura Sabrosura in 1980. They've been based
in Houston ever since.

"When we began, the group played boleros and chicanas," Fito said.
"But the public preferred our cumbias."

Fito and his group signed with Gil Records in Houston and became
famous in 1988 with the hits "La Gallina" and "Juana La Cubana."

They returned in 1989 with "La Negra Catalina," in 1990 with "Aguita
de Melon," and in 1992 with "Cumbia Caliente," among many others.

They've had several of their songs covered onstage and on CD by Tejano
groups from FANDANGO USA to MOONSTRUCK, and from LA TROPA F to
LA FIEBRE. Not only does La Fiebre do "La Gallina" onstage, the sax
riff in their latest single "La Enamorada" is clearly influenced by
Fito's style.

Fito said his group listens to a wide variety of music. They do live
versions of tunes such as "Macarena" and "Muevelo." The SUZANNE VEGA
song "Tom's Diner" inspired a bit of the sax riff for the charanga
"El Paso del Canguro," Fito said.

Their recording contract is now with FonoVisa. Their most recent
album is "Tambores y Sabor."

Since 1994, they've had five top 40 hits on BILLBOARD's Hot Latin
Tracks Chart--charangas "La Ranita," "Cupido Bandido," and "El Paso
del Canguro," and cumbias "Juana Maria" and "El Colesterol."

So we asked Fito: is his cholesterol really rising?

"My doctor told me that I should have annual checkups for diabetes,
cholesterol, and blood pressure. Of all of those, the cholesterol
was normal but high. And that gave me the idea for the song," he said.

They travel so much that it's hard to plan their meals.

"A person who has the same daily routine can plan to do exercise and
eat food that won't harm him. But sometimes when we're traveling we
don't eat because they're isn't any place to eat. Other times we eat
whatever there is because there's nothing besides hamburgers or tacos.
That's our problem," Fito said.

Live, Fito and his group don't dance around or put on a show at all.
They're a little bit old-fashioned in that way. But the important thing
is that everybody dances and has fun. Javier is like a DJ, announcing
songs and greeting the public.

Currently they're working on material for a new album which they will
record before the end of 1995.

They're also nearly finished with another project--Javier singing with
mariachi. Fito will contribute some accordion playing and backup

"We're not changing our style," Fito said. "It's a project that sprang
from my brother Javier's desire to record a disc with mariachi

Fito and Javier also talked about what they might have done if they
hadn't been musicians.

"I'd possibly be an electrical technician," Fito said.

"I'm an admirer of nature," Javier said. "And I'd like to work in
something related with that. I don't know...look after the animals
in some park or in Florida or Africa."