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Chavez brothers play NM folk music of long ago

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — From childhood, fiddler Frank Chavez was exposed to New Mexico Spanish folk music growing up west of Estancia.

Then in 1990 when Chavez bought a home in the South Valley, he heard some of the music that neighbors Jeanie McLerie and Ken Keppeler were playing.

“It struck a chord. When I heard that Spanish traditional music I knew it was in my DNA,” he said. “I got acquainted with Jeanie. She gave me a few violin lessons and I started learning to play it. Before that I had played guitar and in a band.”

McLerie and Keppeler are the heart of the longtime folk music ensemble Bayou Seco.

Chavez said he also listened to field tapes that McLerie and Keppeler had of that folk music. Since then, he’s taken it upon himself to learn many of the songs from what he called “The Golden Years” of the music, from roughly 1820 to 1920.


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Chavez figured he’s got about 50 Hispanic folk songs in his repertoire.

Chavez and his brother James Chavez, who accompanies him on guitar, will be in concert Sunday, July 21 at the Eight Two 1 Performance and Events Center. The concert is part of the center’s “Walk the Walk” series.

Frank Chavez, 70, said the duo will play Spanish folk music and maybe some old-timey tunes.

He said he has also taken it upon himself to study the customs of Hispanics of those golden years from older family members and friends.

In concert, Chavez said, he’ll tell some stories about various subjects, including Hispanic village life, traditional foods prepared for fiestas and Spanish words and phrases that are no longer in use.