The Caliente Column

Rebelde: Sin Miedo
By Doug Shannon (

This five-man group from Houston takes Tejano to the cutting edge with
powerful, pulsating rancheras and cumbias that just beg to be cranked.

"Everyone in this band used to play hard rock or heavy metal and our
style is powerful," said lead vocalist Javier Bonilla.

Rebelde's current lineup formed in 1992. They landed a recording contract
with Sony this year after submitting a demo they recorded at LA MAFIA's
Houston Sound Studios.

Rebelde's debut CD is called "Sin Miedo."

"It means 'no fear,'" Bonilla said. "We took a lot of chances."

The most obvious example of this is "Baila y Sigue Bailando," their left-
field cumbia cover of "Play That Funky Music," a number-one hit for WILD
CHERRY in 1976. Bonilla said the band unearthed the song by accident.

"Sometimes when we practice, we goof around and play heavy metal, funk,
anything. Larry Barragan, our guitar player, happened to be playing
that (riff), and our drummer, Ross Perez, kicked in the cumbia beat. So
we just took it from there," Bonilla said.

If that sounds like a stupid song to cover, remember that LOS PALOMINOS
just had a big hit by covering an ABBA tune, so all bets are off.

Though there was some confusion in November about whether Rebelde had
permission to cover "Play That Funky Music," Cirilo said that the matter
had been settled between Sony Discos and Wild Cherry, so "Baila y Sigue
Bailando" will continue pegando fuerte throughout Texas.

GABRIEL CANDIANI wrote three songs for the CD and produced it. FAMA's
Javier Galvan also contributed a ranchera and a ballad to the album. But
Rebelde's accordionist/keyboardist Joel Cirilo said Rebelde is no "Fama

"We've never tried to copy their style," Cirilo said. "We're playing the
way we play because we all grew up in this area of Houston. We were very
fortunate to work with some talented people in this part of the city

The project did stick Candiani with a new nickname, "Captain Smok."

"He would always say he wanted the music to 'smoke,'" Cirilo said.
"With his strong accent, he would call it 'smok.' And we were like,
'What do you mean, smok?'"

Bonilla works out regularly and his arms look so big on the CD cover
photo that Candiani's ERIC JIMENEZ almost seems scrawny by contrast.

"That's trick photography," Bonilla joked. "Actually, at the time we
took those pictures, I worked out a lot, maybe three times a week. Then
I got out of it, but now I'm starting to get back into it. Eric's still
the man; he's still in better shape than I am."

Bonilla describes himself as "twentysomething" and "very single." If
any women are interested in him, he said, "we have our PO box on the CD--
they can write to me."

He also added that neither he nor drummer Ross Perez were trying to make
a statement by having their ears pierced--Perez has a ring in his left ear
and Bonilla has a ring in each ear.

Most of the band's bookings have been in the Houston area so far, but
Cirilo said they're in search of good management to help take their show
on the road.

Rebelde is: Javier Bonilla, vocals/guitar; Ross Perez, drums/percussion;
Jesse Tijerina, bass; Larry Barragan, guitar; and Joel Cirilo, accordion,
keyboards, back-up vocals.