The Latin music scene in Dallas has grown steadily in the last few years, according to Victor Rimach-Vera, an independent music booking agent and event producer. In 2005, when Rimach returned to Dallas, the scene was limited to a few bands hung up on Spanish rock from the 1980s and ’90s. That lack of diversity spurred Rimach to start his own booking agency and bring South American and Mexican indie bands to Dallas.
Rimach wasn’t new to music. He and two of his brothers had a band in their native Peru called Fe de Erratas, in which he played from 1996 to 2001. The band played mainly in venues in Lima. Their music was a mixture of progressive rock with Latin and Afro-Peruvian and Peruvian rhythms, like chicha and cumbia.
“I like fusion,” Rimach says. As he speaks, Rimach's love of music and enthusiasm for his business are almost palpable. Chatting over a plate of seco de res, a traditional Peruvian stew, Victor recalls his beginnings in the local music industry. His family moved to Dallas in 2001. At first, he and his brothers worked in the restaurant business, where they made many contacts that came in handy later. Rimach decided to return in 2004 to Lima, where he got a degree in audio engineering. He was exposed to such a variety of rhythms that, he says, “I became more of a musician then.”
Back in Dallas, Rimach and his brothers Renato and Ivan renamed their band Mayta, which means "kind warrior" in Quechua, the language of the Inca Empire. It was also their grandfather’s nickname. Mayta won the Dallas Observer’s Best Latin/Tejano Act music award in 2013. Soon, Rimach gravitated toward booking and event production and founded booking company Chasquis.
“The idea of a music booking agency came to me once I was established in Dallas,” Rimach says.
While the local Latin scene offers a variety of sound, the Chasquis owner says his company offers something different.
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"There are a few options in the metroplex," Rimach says. "If you are looking for more of the traditional salsa, merengue, etc., the guys from Latin Fusion do a great job. If you are looking for traditional Latin festivals, the guys from Uptown Latino have been doing an amazing job for the past decade.
"On the other hand, Chasquis focuses more on alternative, indie Latin acts. We have found our niche, and intend to expand it more into world sounds and rhythms."
The company also has a Quechua name. The chasquis were foot messengers, “the UPS of the Inca Empire,” as Rimach puts it. Rimach started organizing small events in 2009. Now, he organizes eight to 10 concerts a year in small, intimate venues for 150 to 300 people. His shows have a consistent following and audience members so involved that they often recommend new bands to Rimach, he says, which perpetuates a cycle of new possibilities.
Rimach's goal is to start bringing bigger bands that are already established in the alternative Latin American music scene, but he says that booking a venue can be hard because there are so many events happening in Dallas.
“You have to plan three or four months in advance to get a small venue,” he says. Rimach also says that bigger Dallas venues, like the House of Blues, often book touring Latin acts, but they aren't reaching the potential they could. "There have been a couple of amazing Latin indie acts that don’t get the proper promotion and not enough people go to see them," Rimach says. "It’s a bit sad."
While Dallas' live music hub, Deep Ellum, often features DJs spinning Latin music, it's not common to find Latin bands playing live sets on busy nights. Rimach says that the answer for that lack of demand is complicated.
"Latinos are really diverse, and traditional music tends stay more in houses, family reunions or small restaurants," he says.
"However, there are Latino bands that play often in Dallas, but not necessarily traditional Latin American music. I went to see Luna Luna last month at Deep Ellum Art Co. and was moved by the connection Latins have with music and activism. We live in an era that Latinos cannot be apathetic on politics. ... I have also been following Sub-Sahara and The Bralettes; these two badass bands are my favorite 'Latino' bands in the area. I actually don’t know if they even consider their bands 'Latino' — the music is more punk driven.
"There’s also maestro Ernesto Montiel, from Venezuela, curating a massive amount of experimental shows in Denton, Oak Cliff and Dallas. I mean, this guy is just a scholar of music; he curates the vinyl selection at The Wild Detectives as well. So, Latin American music has a lot of genres to offer, and there are many different routes you can choose from. It’s so diverse, so regional, so unique and so beautiful."
Chasquis recently brought in UJI, a multi-instrumentalist from Argentina whose electronic music is rooted in Latin American and African folk rhythms. UJI played to a full house at The Wild Detectives on Aug. 8. Grupo Fantasma, a nine-piece musical collective from Austin, will appear onstage at Gas Monkey Bar N' Grill on Sept. 13. Mayta will open for Combo Chimbita, an Afro-Colombian psychedelic band from New York, along with Ley Line, an all-female bossa nova and traditional Brazilian music group from Austin. This super lineup will play at RBC in Deep Ellum on Oct. 3.
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Chasquis focuses on alternative Latin music but will venture into world music soon. Rimach defines it as “native sounds from different parts of the world.” These sounds appeal to a wider public, Rimach says, and not just to Latinos. For example, to Americans who travel, who will be reminded of the places they visit.
Rimach’s dream is “to have a mix of Americans and international people in the audience.” That’s why, he says, he focuses on acts that are hybrid and can attract various kinds of concert-goers.
There’s a visual component to every show. Chasquis works with local media artist Eric Trich to create visual elements, projections and mapping that complement and accentuate each performance. The recent tightening of visa rules makes it harder to bring foreign bands to Dallas. It used to be that musical acts would risk performing without the necessary permits, but that is no longer a common practice. Individual artists and groups need to meet certain standards, like being of international renown or culturally unique, to qualify for a visa. And visas are not cheap. Chaquis works with bands that tour the U.S. regularly to help spread the costs.
Innovation, culture fusion, creativity and the healing power of arts are the guiding principles of this production company, which, led by Rimach, is trying to leave a mark in the alternative Dallas music scene.