The Caliente Column
Chikko: Small Package, Big Sound
By Doug Shannon (email@example.com)
Chikko may be one of the youngest bands signed to a major label, and it's
true that their lead singer's nickname is "Peewee," but on their new
self-titled debut CD they craft an attractive, danceable style that
belies their youth.
Lead singer Nikko "Peewee" Rios, 17, credits much of the group's
musical development to A.B. Quintanilla III, who produced the album and
cowrote several of its songs with PETE ASTUDILLO and Ricky Vela.
Rios hooked up with A.B. in 1991 when Rios, along with keyboardist Roland
Gutierrez and drummer Jay Martinez, were in a band in Corpus Christi.
"We met our manager, Jake Pena," Rios said, "and he asked us if we wanted
to start our own project. We decided to give it a shot. Pena introduced
us to A.B., and he liked us and told us if we'd fix a few things, he'd
give us the opportunity to go on tour with SELENA and see if he could
give us a chance at signing with Capitol EMI."
The band, then known as Eclipse, signed with Q Productions in 1993. But
they were forced to change their name when another group called Eclipse
"We came to the conclusion that Chikko sums up the group because everyone's
really young. No one is older than 19," Rios said.
Eclipse/Chikko spent much of 1994 opening for Selena in Texas and learning
about life on the road.
"We learned about showmanship. You learn to read the crowds a lot better
and know what music they want to hear. You get some crowds that are
absolutely rowdy--they love to scream at anything," Rios said.
"You also learn how to act towards people you don't know--you can't be a
real jerk to people."
Rios said the crowds in the Valley like the cumbias best; the San Antonio
crowds go more for straight-ahead Tejano, and in Corpus Christi people
want some of both.
Chikko spent six weeks recording their new CD, and the band members played
their own instruments on it.
The album's first single was the Quintanilla/Vela-penned cumbia "No, No,
No." When EMI Latin sent it to radio, it surfaced as the last track on
a four-song promo CD, behind songs by EMILIO, INTOCABLE, and LA FIEBRE.
Chikko was placed on that CD because all of the artists on it have
crossover potential into Mexico, Chicago, and California, EMI promotion
representative John Ortiz said.
But Rios said he thinks "No, No, No" should have been released as a
separate promo CD.
"I really think it should have gotten its own single because they put it
on a CD with a lot of Tex-Mex artists and when you look at the back of
our CD, it's labeled 'Regional Mexican,'" Rios said. "When it's sent out
to the Regional Mexican stations, a lot of them won't play it because of
the groups they see on it."
And it's clear that a Chikko cumbia is going to sound plenty different
from an Emilio cumbia.
"Everything has an international flavor blended into it," Rios said.
"Our cumbias have a lot of jazzy riffs in them."
The second single is cumbia "Mi Primer Amor" and it will be accompanied
by a video.
For their next album, Rios said he hopes it will help them crack the
Regional Mexican market and get them bookings in California and Chicago.
Rios took summer classes and night classes and graduated from high school
in May 1995, a year early. He has a girlfriend in CC and also likes to
hang out with Chente Barrera whenever JAY PEREZ comes to town.
Barrera said he thinks Rios has a good voice and Chikko has a great
"Hanging out with them is cool because they're all my age and usually
I'm around older guys," Barrera said.
You can currently Chikko in Texas on the Q Caravan with Pete Astudillo,
LOS AGUES, OXYGENO, and JENNIFER PENA.
Chikko is: Nikko Rios, vocals; Roland Gutierrez, keyboard/accordion;
Jay Martinez, drums; Joe Lopez, bass; John Soto, keyboards;
Pete Contreras, guitar.