Manuel “Cowboy” Donley accepts national lifetime award in Washington, D.C.

Manuel "Cowboy" Donley
National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu presents a plaque to 2014 NEA National Heritage Fellow Manuel “Cowboy” Donley at the NEA National Heritage Fellowships Awards Ceremony on September 17, 2014 at the Library of Congress. TOM PICH

Austin-based Tejano music icon Manuel “Cowboy” Donley accepted the National Endowment for the Arts’ lifetime achievement award for folk and traditional arts in Washington, D.C. last week.

The beloved singer, multi-instrumentalist, arranger and composer was among 13 master artists and advocates in folk, traditional arts and jazz to receive the 2014 National Heritage Fellowship, which included a $25,000 prize. Donley, 87, also performed at a special NEA National Heritage Fellowships Concert, which was streamed live and can still be viewed online.

While at the ceremony with friends and family, Donley says that he was filled with emotion when his name was announced first. “It’s quite an honor (to receive an award) for things I’ve done all my life. And music, well, that’s all I can do. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen.”

The last time Donley performed in Washington, D.C. was in 1974 for the Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife Festival, where he was among several musicians invited to represent Mexican and Mexican-American musical traditions.

At the NEA concert Donley and his band, which included his daughter Sylvia Donley, performed many of his hits from the 1950s. Donley’s career began in the 1940s when he lit up dance halls across Texas and the Midwest with his band Las Estrellas.

“I’ve tried to do my best throughout the years,” Donley says. “It’s been my pleasure and honor.”

Donley will celebrate with Austin fans at a special Cactus Cafe show on Sept. 25 at 8 p.m. For ticket information, visit

Behind the scenes on the Tish Hinojosa story

Picking up the pieces

Tish Hinojosa performs at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum for their summer music program.
By Nancy Flores

After singer/songwriter Tish Hinojosa was included this year in an Austin History Center exhibit focusing on trailblazing Latina musicians, called “Latinas in the Shadow of the Live Music Capital of the World,” I began looking at the list of honorees and wondering, ‘What ever happened to Tish Hinojosa?’

In late 1990s and early 2000s, when I was in college, I remember hearing her name everywhere. After covering the Latin music scene in Austin for the past three years, I hadn’t heard much about any recent music. Was she still performing?

Here was this trailblazing musicians who broke barriers and paved a path for a new generation of Austin singer/songwriters, and news about her had mostly gone quiet — except for an album she released in fall 2013 about Germany. Germany? I started doing some more digging, and found that the once prolifiic Tish Hinojosa had been living in Hamburg, Germany for nearly a decade and recently returned to Austin.

I imagined she must be going through a big transition, especially since the gigs she was playing at were significantly smaller than the old shows she used to play. Plus a lot has changed in Austin’s live music scene in the last 10 years.

I wanted to know more, and knew her longtime fans would too. In the process of reporting this Tish Hinojosa story, I found that it wasn’t just a story about music or an influential musician. It was a story of how to pick up the pieces when you’ve gone through a difficult time. That’s what Tish was doing after many bumps in Germany.

The more I talked to her, the more I realized why audiences everywhere connect with her. She’s been on stages all over the world, but still is a Tejana at heart. Open, friendly and inspiring. It was my privilege to share her moving story with all those fans who also wondered where their beloved Tish had gone.

Enjoy listening to some music from throughout Tish’s storied career:


Previous Posts

Being Latino, beyond the labels

By Nancy Flores

Latinos in the U.S. don’t fit neatly into any one box. Diverse backgrounds, language skills, religion and skin color make it difficult for everyone — from politicians to advertisers across the country — to wrap their heads around the Latino experience.

Check out our new video and story series “Austin Gente,” which features Austinities sharing what being Latino means to them. Everyone has a different experience, but they all make up a part of the diverse Latino reality.

Our first installment features the personal identity stories of spray can artist Nathan “Sloke” Nordstrom, multidisciplinary artist Leticia Rodriguez Garza and poet Ire’ne Lara Silva. What’s your identity story?

Latin music at Wobeon world music fest

Latin rhythms will be among the global grooves featured at Wobeon, Austin’s world music festival happening Sept. 20 at Ironwood Hall. Deborah Sengupta Stith reported the details on Austin Music Source, but here are a few stand-outs bringing Latin music to festival. Also, check out how Latin rhythms inspire artists who are not from Latin America.

  • Dendê, percussionist playing Afro-Brazilian funk and groove
  • Maracatu Texas, a local community drum group showcasing Afro-Brazilian music traditions from Pernambuco
  • Kiko Villamizar, Colombian-raised musician who now lives in Austin and performs a fusion of Afro-Colombiano with reggae and other Latin world beats
  • Farah Siraj, Jordanian who incorporates Flamenco to her Jazz and Arabic music
  • Vivalda Dula, singer/songwriter from Angola who sings almost entirely in Portuguese

For more information about the lineup, schedule and tickets, click here.

‘Austin Gente’ Video, Story Series Launches Sunday

Ire'ne Lara Silva
Poet Ire’ne Lara Silva throws one of her famous gritos.

By Nancy Flores

We’re launching a new video and story series called “Austin Gente,” which features Austinites sharing stories about their Latino experience. In the first installment we talk about identity. The stuff you don’t typically bring up with your friends or family. How do you identify? What do you say when someone asks, ‘What are you?’

We chatted with three Austinites- poet Ire’ne Lara Silva, spray can artist Nathan “Sloke One” Nordstrom and multidisciplinary artist Leticia Rodriguez Garza–about their personal identity stories. Each of them brings a unique point of view, and, despite having different experiences and backgrounds, makes up a part of the diverse and complex Latino reality.

Nathan "Sloke One" Nordstrom photo
Nathan “Sloke One” Nordstrom is an accompished spray can artist.

Look for it on Sunday at and in the Life & Arts section of the Austin American-Statesman. In the mean time, check out these behind-the-scene photos I shot. We had a lot of fun in the studio, and hope to highlight more Austin Latinos in this ongoing series.

Leticia Rodriguez Garza photo
Leticia Rodriguez Garza serenaded us during the video shoot.


Aleks Syntek to perform in Austin

Premios Texas 2010

Mexican pop superstar Aleks Syntek will bring his mix of catchy, danceable beats and heartfelt ballads to Austin on Sept. 12 at The Coliseum. Syntek, who is also a producer, singer and songwriter, has a musical repetoire that spans 25 years. His latest album, “Romántico desliz” released this summer and includes the telenovela theme song “Corazones Invencibles.”

Tickets are $25, and show starts at 8 p.m. Find the Coliseum near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport at 9111 FM 812. Keep on eye on this venue, which brings both English and Spanish-language acts. Next Friday, they’ll present Mexican synthpop group Belanova.

In the mean time, enjoy some Aleks Syntek grooves:

Pachanga Festival Launches Red Bull Panamérika Tour in Texas

Austin’s Pachanga Latino Music Festival expanded beyond the city limits today with the launch of the Red Bull Panamérika Tour that’ll go to several Texas cities this week.

Latin alternative artists and Pachanga Fest alums Bomba Estéreo and Los Rakas will be featured on the tour, which kicks off in El Paso. Other tour stops include Corpus Christi’s House of Rock on Sept. 11, Houston’s Warehouse Live on Sept. 12 and San Antonio’s Échale Block Party on Sept. 13.

“We couldn’t be more excited to bring a taste of the Pachanga musical experience outside of Austin and to the rest of Texas,” Pachanga founder Rich Garza said in a news release. This year’s Pachanga Festival scaled back to one day as the event prepared for its expansion.

“Red Bull Panamérika has been such a great partner at the festival; our musical tastes are perfectly aligned. We’ve both been looking to reach a broader audience, so going on the road together with some of our favorite bands made perfect sense for all of us,” Garza said.

Audiences across Texas can expect high-energy dance rhythms from Colombia’s Bomba Estéreo who masterfully blend hip-hop, dub and even Colombian folk rhythms to produce an explosive sound.

Oakland-based bilingual MCs Los Rakas is made up of Panamanian cousins who rhyme mostly in Spanish and Spanglish over heavy, dancehall- and reggae-infused beats.

Tickets, which cost $8 in advance and $12 (plus fees) on the day of show, are available at and at venue ticket outlets. San Antonio fans will have free admission since the show will be part of the larger Échale Block Party at the Pearl Brewery.

Day of the Dead calaveras that honor your loved ones

Danny Cobos
Former calavera mural at Mexic-Arte Museum, Fifth Street & Congress Avenue. Photo by Danny Cobos

By Nancy Flores

I can’t wait for bright marigolds, pan de muerto and sugar skulls. Day of the Dead remains one of my favorite holidays, which honors the lives of our dearly departed. Mexic-Arte Museum has a cool way to remember someone you loved. They’re featuring 101 hand-painted images of calaveras (skeletons) on the exterior wall of the museum on Congress Avenue and Fifth Street.

You can purchase a $25 calavera that highlights the name of a loved one you’d like to honor here.

Mexic-Arte Museum’s Day of the Dead celebration this year honors the 101 year anniversary of Mexican engraver and political satirist Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852–1913). Posada is best known for creating one of the most famous images frequently associated with the Day of the Dead Holiday, “La Calavera Catrina.”

Suns of Orpheus band celebrates Austin-Brazil sound on Aug. 23

Austin’s Brazilian music scene on the rise
Federico Geib of Macaxeira Funk performs on Brazilian Samba Funk night at the Saraha Lounge.

By Nancy Flores

Austin-based band Suns of Orpheus, an international psychedelic pop band led by Brazilian-born frontman Frederico Geib, will celebrate “Suns of Orpheus Day” with a special show on Aug. 23 at the Sahara Lounge. Two years ago, the group received a City of Austin proclamation honoring their musical excellence and community involvement and were recognized with a “Suns of Orpheus Day” on Aug. 23, 2012.  Now the band celebrates each year by throwing a benefit concert supporting arts education.

The trilingual band, which features Portuguese, Spanish and English lyrics in its hybrid music, is among a growing group of rising local Brazilian bands in Austin’s music scene. Suns of Orpheus helped strengthen the Austin-Brazilian sound by recording the well-received album “Amoris Orbita.”

Suns of Orpheus will be special guests at the Sahara Lounge’s weekly Africa Nite showcase with African band Zoumountchi. Doors open at 9 p.m. and show starts at 10 p.m. Tickets are $6, and a portion of the door and bar proceeds will benefit arts education group Grounded in Music, a local nonprofit organization. Visit for more information.

Leticia Rodriguez EP release party Aug. 16

New Spanish-language music gives nod to nostalgic sound
Leticia Rodriguez Garza is a singer, bandleader, dancer, choreographer and the producer, writer and director of the one-woman show “Canciones For Generations.” To develop the show, she spent two years interviewing family members and, in the process, rediscovered the music of her aunt, Eva Garza.

By Nancy Flores

Austin-based multidisciplinary artist Leticia Rodriguez Garza will present her latest Spanish-language EP “Sagüita al Bate” this Saturday at the Sahara Lounge at 10 p.m.

The new music also pays homage to her aunt, Eva Garza, who is considered one of the first internationally recorded bilingual artists to cross over in the U.S. During the 1940s and 1950s, her aunt recorded about 200 songs and appeared in more than 20 films.

“While I was researching material for ‘Canciones For Generations’ (Rodriguez Garza’s one-woman show) my mother and aunt told me I needed to record a song of Aunt Eva’s called ‘Sagüita al Bate,’” Rodriguez Garza says. “They let me know that, of the many songs my Aunt Eva recorded, this was the one song they felt I absolutely had to record.” It’s about a man who can’t take his wife’s baseball obsession.

Doors open at 8 p.m. with Sahara Lounge’s free dinner buffet.  World music artists Roberto Riggio and Angel Ibañez, along with members of the World Music Jam, kick off the party at 9 p.m. Rodriguez Garza  performs at 10 p.m., and African band Zoumountchi closes out the night at midnight.