Checking In: Josh Baca Perfects Zydejunto and Mexicajun
Los Texmaniacs accordionist dishes his own Hot Tamales
By Raoul Hernandez,
10:10AM, Tue. Sep. 22, 2020
Just as San Antonio conjunto kings Flaco and Santiago Jimenez followed in their papa’s boot steps, so too did Max and Josh Baca of Austin’s Grammy-winning Los Texmaniacs take up the family business. “I really enjoyed your write-up on Los Pinkys and Bradley Jaye Williams,” emails the latter. “I’m Josh Baca, the accordionist he mentioned in the article.”
Austin Chronicle: Where are you sheltering and under what circumstances? Who else is there and how’s that going?
Josh Baca: I am sheltering at home in San Antonio with my wife and our six kids. We stay home, go to grocery stores when needed, take the older boys to work and football practice and baseball practice. It’s been going pretty good.
Usually, I’m on the road a lot and am hardly ever home, so it’s been nice to be home and spend more time with the family and actually get to see them grow. I’ve fixed up the yard and odds and ends around the house, and I’ve got the garage finally straightened out. I’ve been trying to take care of my health a little better too.
AC: At what point did C-19 shut down operations for you, and what went down with the ship, so to speak, both personally & professionally?
JB: Pretty much the first week of COVID, we got a call from every festival, club, show that we had booked and were scheduled to perform for the entire year: canceled. We rescheduled for next year and some scheduled for another time, but it was a big loss. Music inspires and brings people together mentally, emotionally, and physically without us even realizing it.
AC: As a global culture, people employ music for every purpose imaginable, obviously spanning religion to entertainment and everything in between. What happens to communities like ours when people can no longer access it in person?
JB: Communities and people no longer grow as one and have peace between each other. Everybody’s scared to even speak to each other or shake hands or hug or spread love for one another to make new friends. Sometimes in life, it’s not how much you know, it’s who you know and sometimes through socializing and enjoying music with one another, you can meet somebody that can get you a job or be your future wife or husband or best friend, or help you in time of need.
With everything the way it is now, even if you have known somebody for so long, now they’re strangers. Now, it’s like people don’t want to get close, because they don’t know where this person has been. It’s totally understandable with the circumstances and everything that we are going through, but socializing creates energy creates happiness.
AC: Everyone’s had to shift or drastically alter their work situation. What does that look like for you?
JB: Work for me has definitely changed as far as performing on stages all over the planet – touring and traveling and being in and out of airports all over the world – but I’ve been doing a lot of recordings for various artists. We’ve also been doing a lot of live feeds and Zoom concerts for different festivals and organizations all over.
I’ve also been performing with my side project Josh Baca & the Hot Tamales in some bar and grill clubs that have opened up with all protocols and stuff and that are staying safe. We play zydeco swamp-pop, Tex-Mex rock & roll, and blues. I call it zydejunto, Mexicajun.
[My brother] Max Baca and myself are producing records and songs for artists, and working on an upcoming Texmaniacs record, but I’ve been very grateful for organizations that take care of musicians in time of need. MusicCares especially helped us along with this time of need and also Texas Folklife and Smithsonian Folkways. All our friends and family all over the universe donated money with tips in virtual tip jars.
AC: What’s your soundtrack for the apocalypse and what role does music play for you as a fan and scholar of it in times of hardship?
JB: I think this apocalypse is an eye-opener to be grateful for what you have and realize that things can be taken in the blink of an eye. I was raised to believe that we are not promised tomorrow and to take every day like it’s your last. Have fun, show love always, and be thankful to our creator for everything that he has done for us and will continue to do.
I miss being on the road and expressing my culture to different audiences all over the world – seeing their reaction when they hear Tex-Mex music for the first time. Being able to see and hear different music from all over the planet is so important, but I’ve never heard something so different and beautiful that I didn’t know what it was.
I miss being able to hang out with my good friend and teacher – my biggest influence in the Tex-Mex world – Flaco Jimenez. I miss jam sessions all over with many different musicians and styles. It’s so beautiful.
Check out the entire Checking In series.