Y La Bamba

BY NATHAN CRANFORD

What’s in a name? If one contemplates the name of Portland, Oregon-based Y La Bamba, one might subconsciously or otherwise, experience twangs of nostalgia, wonder and perhaps even confusion.

First, the name might evoke a sense of generational nostalgia for many familiar with the music of 1950s Chicano rock and roll superstar Ritchie Valens. His life, though tragically cut short, provided the world with a new-found mainstream awareness of Mexican-Americans and their contributions to contemporary American culture. His work also revealed to us the infinite possibilities that are borne from fusing the popular musical styles of two rather disparate sub-cultures in American society.

Y La Bamba. Photo by Alicia J. Rose.

Others might come to the band’s elliptical name with a sense of wonder. To those familiar with the Spanish language, the name might conjure a vast, unexplored semantic space, like a piano prelude by Claude Debussy, that ends with the words “…and La Bamba.”

Yet some might react with confusion, repeating the name in their head: “Why La Bamba?” ‘Y’ La Bamba, indeed.

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