By Jules Lavallee
Photos Dario Trevino
Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 08/13/2020 – “123 Andrés” has launched a new children’s book with Scholastic and musical EP, “Hola, Amigo/Hello Friend. The bilingual kids’ music power duo, 123 released their book August 4 and album (Available Aug 21), as an ode to friendship in a diverse world.
Andrés, 10 years ago you were a recent immigrant to the U.S. What led you to write your first song?
I started writing songs as a teenager! I wrote rock songs, ballads, and others but Hola, Amigo was the first song I wrote for 123 Andrés.
One day I went to use an ATM and someone had scratched off the Spanish instructions on it. It was such a small act, but so meaningful. I felt that by erasing the language, they wanted to erase ME.
I realized it might be hard to change the person who did this act, but I hoped I could talk about this with children BEFORE they adopted that kind of attitude.
From that experience came Hola, Amigo. Since then it’s usually the first song we sing at all of our concerts – it’s been thousands of concerts! And, we just released it as a picture book, published by Scholastic!
You are a Latin Grammy Winning duo. Tell us about your career.
It’s been a whole decade creating music for children and families! We started in the Washington, DC area, where we live, and then gradually we started touring all over the US and Latin America. In the year before COVID, we performed in Los Angeles, NYC, the Bay Area, Mexico City, Bogotá… lots of places!
Hola, Amigo: Songs of Friendship is our sixth album and Hola, Amigo is our first book! We are privileged to have three Latin Grammy nominations, and one winning album.
After so many years we maintain our commitment to celebrating Spanish language and Latin culture in a way that’s authentic and that lets children see their whole selves reflected in our songs and concerts.
Tell us about your new book and album, Hola, Amigo, Hello, Friend. Where can we find it?
The book is published by Scholastic and illustrated by Sara Palacios, an award-winning Mexican artist who lives in California. The illustrations are super colorful and we love them! They’re playful, but Sara wove lots of details into them that are meaningful and profound. The text is in Spanish and English, so families can experience it in both languages. You can find it at major retailers and on our website. We also really encourage families to find it at independent bookstores. For example, LA Librería in Los Angeles is doing amazing work curating books for bilingual families.
And as for Hola, Amigo the album… It has 10 tracks, with songs in Spanish and English. I re-recorded versions of the song Hola, Amigo and the English version, Hello, Friend. The other songs are a mix of genres and styles – from hip-hop to folk, a rhythm from Uruguay called candombe, and pop. They all extend the theme of “What is friendship?”
There are beautiful themes in your songs about inclusion, responsibility, and respect. Share a few of your favorite messages.
We love telling stories that audiences can relate to, that will inspire them and make them proud of their heritage. For example in Daddy Was a Migrant Worker from our debut album, we sing the story of a child whose parents work in the fields. This story has resonated with families. Some have told us that their parents or grandparents were migrant workers, and some have told us that they had never thought about where produce comes from and that they are learning more about migrant farm workers and the important role they play in our society.
We try to be inclusive in everything we do. In our book, Hello, Friend / Hola, Amigo, one of the languages we mention is Quechua, an indigenous language from South America. We’ve noticed that when books and songs list “World Languages” the focus is often on European languages. But for us, it is important to acknowledge and honor languages that are typically given less prestige and recognition.
We know representation matters. Recently a mom reached out to tell us that her grandmother speaks Quechua and it made her and her child feel so happy to see this language celebrated in our book.
Why is teaching through music so important today?
Teaching through music continues being so important because it tunes our hearts to the same idea, the same feeling, and helps us move forward as a group. In the life of young children, it is even more important. Music helps create positive memories and emotional bonds, and it is the perfect vehicle to teach language.
Your album, Hola Amigo: Songs of Friendship will be released on August 21. What are your favorite songs on the album?
We love this album! It was great to invite many friends and experiment with new musical ideas. These are some of our favorite songs:
On Cooperation we combine Spanish and English with a powerful message, the idea that we must bridge our differences and work together. In this song, we feature the amazing Rissi Palmer, a star of “Southern Soul” who has performed everywhere from the White House to Grand Ole Opry.
Musically we had lots of fun with Boomerang, a song that combines rap, and cha cha cha. That’s right! I co-wrote it with Konshens the MC and it gave me the opportunity to rap and explore new sounds. Other guests on the album include multi-Grammy winner Cathy Fink, Suzi Shelton, Sugar-Free Allstars, and more!
Why will kids and parents love your book so much?
Children and families will fall in love with the joyful and vibrant illustrations, by award-winning artist Sara Palacios. Each page features characters that are diverse in many ways, from skin color to clothing styles to which musical instruments they play.They will also love the message. We have come together to this country, our home, with so many different family stories and legacies. To quote one line from the book, “Don’t let a difference drift us apart, we’re all the same inside our hearts. It doesn’t matter where you are from, you’re welcome in my home.”