Thee Sound of Califas
Indie Chicano record label brings old school Chicano soul and history to the digital era with emphasis on Chicanismo
“There's a lot of talk today about Chicano Soul...But who here really knows thee Chicano's soul?”
That’s the tagline for J.M. Valle’s indie record label, Raza Del Soul, based out of San Jose, Califaztlan. Valle, who’s known as @razadelsoul online, is the owner of the label in addition to being a producer, songwriter, promoter and vendor, not to mention an activist and father, among many other things.
His indie label is taking off and I wanted to highlight it as I strongly relate to the David & Goliath independent spirit it has and also to owning and operating a Chicano business in this post Chicano Movement era, especially a record label.
RDS doesn’t just produce music however, he also teaches and shares information on Chicano history and self determination, which is a lost art form in my opinion. You will find Chicano history strewn throughout his releases and posts, such as Corky Gonzalez’s I Am Joaquin read by Luis Valdez on his YouTube channel.
You won’t find that kind of deep history on any other record label out there today, I guarantee it. Where most labels are focusing on finding what’s next, Valle is focused on preserving history and educating new generations on Chicanismo. That’s what makes what RDS is doing unique and frankly, amazing. Plus, he releases vinyl (with digital downloads), which makes it just that much cooler in my humble opinion.
When you take on the task of starting an indie business in the arts, you take on an uphill battle. I learned this the hard way as a publisher. One of the biggest lessons I learned was that no matter how hard I tried, my books would never reach the shelves of the big box stores. And even if they did, they would be segregated.
That was a big deal back then but not so much any more as the business model has completely shifted to almost entirely being online. The same can be said for the music business. No longer are we at the mercy of begging book/music stores to carry our works or for visibility - we have the ability to market ourselves online and also distribute online. We run the show now.
To put it simply, the game has changed.
And game is exactly what Valle has with his label. Raza De Soul releases Chicano soul records and he does it his way. He doesn’t have a corporation or advertisers looking over his shoulder, dictating every move or telling him which trend to follow or who not to offend. He does things his way, period. I dig that and relate to it.
Being completely independent comes with a huge cost however; you are completely on our own for everything and Valle, like myself, wears many hats to make things work. It ain’t easy! He’s doing an excellent job in my opnion.
His latest release, “How Could I Right All My Wrongs” by Thee Baby Cuffs with The M-Tet (which is just about sold out), features a history lesson/time capsule about journalist Ruben Salazar, who was assassinated by the LASD during the Chicano Moratorium in Los Angeles. This melding of Chicano history with Chicano soul is badass and I hope more people catch on.
If you’re lucky enough to buy the album, you get “a Brown N' Proud budget label sleeve, stamped by hand depicting the assassination of Ruben Salazar at the hand of the LA County Sheriff, enclosed with a perspective of the assassination of Ruben Salazar to inspire thought, movement and self determination during a rare occasion in our history in which the Raza can be the face, the consumer and the business man in the current explosion of Soul on wax. Tucked firme in a poly sleeve.”
Per the one sheet, "How Could I Right All My Wrongs?" was inspired by a quote in Art Villarreal's 1991 SJSU Master's Thesis, and songwriter and producer J.M. Valle's own personal experiences.
"PCP came in, and that hurt us. I don't know if it was a conspiracy because, after the LA Moratorium, San Jose becomes the PCP Capital of the World. I say it right now, it was planted... It was planted by the man!" - Quote from Henry Dominguez from San Jose State University, Master's Thesis, 1991, Black Berets for Justice, by Arturo Villarreal
Originally recorded during the “Where Did Our Pride Go” sessions.
Rendition of an instrumental titled "Group 1987" by Silk Rhodes with original song lyrics.
45 R.P.M. version contains excerpts from Ruben Salazar and a Part II not available digitally.
Valle has also provided a treasure trove of information on the history behind the assassination. You can read the curriculum on the US Government Neutralization of the Chicano Movement, specifically The Chicano Moratorium, Ruben Salazar, Oscar Zeta Acosta and the Counterculture here. What other record label would do that?? Exactly my point.
To put it simply; shit is deep. Chicano history is deep. And though much of it has been forgotten, hidden or forbidden by Wokosos, Valle strives to bring it back around again so that future generations can learn from the lessons of past and know our own history.
I sincerely hope more people catch on to the Chicano soul movement and support what Valle is doing. As the owner of an indie Chicano business myself, I cannot stress how important support from our own Raza is. It is brutal out there and we are competing against giants. So if you are inclined and inspired, I encourage you to support!
Each one teach one! Let’s take it back to the spirit of Chicano self determination and support our own - we don’t need the mainstream!We have the numbers, we just need the unity. Pos orale.
Sarlos Cantana is a writer/publisher based in The Twilight Zone, USA who has published several subversive and counter culture books relating to the Chicano Experience. Follow him on Instagram and buy his books here.
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