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Akwid Release Fourth Album, "ESL"

October 8th, 2006 9:30am EDT
AkwidWords and deeds: the perfect balance. Akwid offers the testimony of their own human story, and sets it to music as no one has ever done before, launching the flaming arrow of their conviction that English is their second language here in the United States, not their first as others allege.

This is why they have so much invested in this hip-hop release based on regional urban music. When asked if they would ever consider focusing on other trendy rhythms, they say, "Hell, no! Our new album is regional Mexican music ... and we're not going to the other side."

And that's a fact. This sentiment is what runs through the band's fourth album, entitled "ESL" after the controversial English as a Second Language program - an album that thanks to the help of Hermanos Valenzuela includes duets with El Original de la Sierra, Los Horóscopos de Durango, and more. As a result, this time around the band is doing a more in-depth exploration of issues related to the personal lives of Sergio and Francisco - but there is always room for fun and humor.

For example, there is the first track, entitled "Qué Quiere La Nena," an Akwid-style response to the "niña fresa" that rose to great popularity on the airwaves when the techno band got started: "It's definitely sly, with sexy innuendos, fun and danceable, 100 percent regional Mexican. In our style. With the same musical arrangements and the hip-hop backdrop."

Aggressively, with this launch under the Univision Records label Akwid is throwing fuel on the fire by promoting, praising and defending the concept of humble Latino roots.

Why? "Because we came here as wetbacks." They say so in "El Principio," the first song on the album. "Because we're Mexicans who grew up in south central LA." They say in their interviews. "Because this is what we know how to do. Because we grew up listening to regional Mexican music. Because we can't be untrue to ourselves or to the people who know us. This is what we know how to do. And we do it to a level that satisfies us and our fans."

In sum, that's the Akwid strategy. The idea of Latino "roots" joins two separate cultural and linguistic realities: the here and there, the "I came from there" and the "I grew up here and live here." It's what they proclaim and sing about in "El Principio" in Spanish: you can take me out of the barrio, but you can't take the barrio out of me - while the chorus repeats the same sentiment in English.

For brothers Sergio and Francisco Gómez, the well-known founders and pioneers of the urban regional movement that is emerging and developing in southern California, "ESL" represents a phenomenal step forward in comparison to their first recording. "This album is a hundred times better," they say. "Not just musically, but also with regard to our culture. But apart from all that, we've still got our Akwid identity, what people first saw in us. In this album you can appreciate how our music and our expression have evolved."

There is no shortage of excellent arrangements in "ESL" since they were handled under the renowned and talented producers Hermanos Valenzuela, who have worked with such important groups and artists as Banda EL Recodo and Thalia, to name a few. The album has a consistent regional urban feel from the beginning to the end, and the music is of such quality that in addition to the album's 10 new songs there is an enormous bonus track including six exclusively instrumental cuts.

"The music is very innovative," say the Gómez brothers about the bonus track. "That's why we decided to present that separately, so people could listen to it more in depth and appreciate it without the lyrics."

Nevertheless, Akwid's lyrics are strong and they convey clearly consistent messages, like in "Esta Copa," where Akwid gives a shout of thanks to restaurant workers, landscapers, painters, butchers, truck drivers, mechanics, car washers, pallet loaders and many more: "Without these people, a lot of the things that make the United States go 'round wouldn't be happening," say Sergio and Francisco, who add that although this song is actually humorous, "it speaks the truth."

Working as a team with their friends, this time the duo is presenting an album with guest work from artists like Los Horóscopos de Durango, in English and churning out a great hip-hop beat with the band in the song "Just Another Day;" El Original de la Sierra, also in English; Kuky, Antonio and César Baldosiera, the lead vocalist for Los Dinos.

With regard to these duets, Sergio y Francisco Gómez point out that they weren't designed "to get publicity for the project - it's just that we wanted every artist to keep his or her own identity and have his or her own song. El Original, for example, plays regional Mexican music and speaks English, so the concept for their song was perfect for them, it fits them on every level."

The winner of four Billboard Latin Music awards for certified sales and a four-time GRAMMY nominee (American and Latin), Akwid has also achieved two RIAA Platinum certifications in the United States and two Gold certifications in Mexico.

However, instead of basking in past achievements and resting on their laurels Sergio and Francisco say that their greatest success is "the one that awaits them in the future."

Now, the talent of Sergio and Francisco Gómez comes through many times over in this album of 11 original songs, six instrumental arrangements, and six readings where an English teacher, via some entertaining dialogues in practice conversations, teaches his students "English as a Second Language" (ESL).

Born in Jiquilpan, a small town in the state of Michoacán, Sergio and Francisco Gómez, as Akwid, have launched three other albums in the space of nearly three years: "Proyecto Akwid", "KOMP 104.9 Radio Compa," and "Los Aguacates de Jiquilpan."

Francisco and Sergio Gómez left their native land at ages three and five respectively to relocate with their family in south central Los Angeles, California and thus made musical history. They spent their childhood in this neighbourhood, and during their teen years they lived out the bipolar existence of Generation Ñ, the new generation of bilingual and bicultural Latinos raised in the United States, the new face and sound of 21st century America.

They grew up speaking Spanish and listening to Mexican music. Eventually, the reality of their urban social environment, which reflected strong African-American influences ranging from hip-hop and colloquial urban English to the irresistible magic of street rap, impacted them in a big way.

This is the environment that gave the group its start, with influences from idols like AMG, NWA, Snoop Dog, DJ Quick, HI-C and Second to None, whose music reflected the trends of their time and their personal experiences. Even so, their Latino blood makes itself known, and the memory of their childhood and the musical ghosts that influenced them reign supreme in the hearts of this duo that got its start in the late 90s. Obviously so, because they use Spanish first, followed by English as their second language.

Fusion is the concept and the essence of Akwid, the new voice of the 21st century and its new sound, its passion and raw emotion, the bridge between the two separate realities that are lived out on a daily basis by every Latino born or raised in the United States.

Dead-on, biting and irreverent at times in their language, reinventing themselves and expanding their horizons, in "ESL" Akwid is natural and spontaneous, strong in its lyrics yet tender in its message, dedicated to children, open to critics and embracing the future, looking ahead no matter what, and committed to two cultures, ready for more success.

Find lots more about Akwid here on Starpulse!