In Oscar favorite ‘Coco,’ life and art intertwine

In this file photo taken on January 24, 2018 Mexican singer Luis Angel Jaramillo, 13, performs in a concert during the Villa Hidalgo Fair in Jalisco state, Mexico.(AFP)
Updated 25 February 2018

In Oscar favorite ‘Coco,’ life and art intertwine

MEXICO CITY: Thirteen-year-old Luis Angel has a lot in common with the character he plays in the hit movie “Coco,” the favorite to win this year’s Oscar for best animated film.
The movie, set against the backdrop of Mexico’s colorful Day of the Dead festival, tells the story of a boy named Miguel who fights against all odds to realize his dream of being a musician.
With his twinkling eyes and beaming smile, Luis Angel Gomez Jaramillo, who voiced Miguel in the Spanish-language version of the film, looks a little like his character.
He also shares his passion for music and, like Miguel, has battled long odds to sing.
“I identified a lot with the character, which may be one reason I did the movie,” he told AFP.
Luis Angel, who comes from the sleepy colonial town of San Francisco del Rincon in central Mexico, had taken some voice lessons, but had little experience singing for an audience.
He just loved to sing — something he inherited from his grandmother, who got him started singing at five years old.
He dreamed of making it as a musician, but it wasn’t easy at first, his mother recalled.
“His first auditions were hard,” with a string of rejections, said Blanca Gomez Jaramillo.
Luis Angel’s first break finally came when he landed a spot on the Mexican version of the reality show “The Voice Kids.”
He charmed viewers with his cute face, country manners, cowboy clothes and spunk.
He didn’t make it to the final round of the show, which aired last year. But several videos of him went viral online, and that is where Pixar producers found him.
They invited Luis Angel to audition, and he landed the part with his soaring voice, impressing director Lee Unkrich and the production team with his rendition of the movie’s theme song, “Recuerdame” — whose English-language version, “Remember Me,” is up for Best Original Song at the Oscars.
There was just one problem — Luis Angel had no idea how to do voiceover work.
“I had to learn overnight. I typed ‘how to do voiceover’ in YouTube, and found some advice,” he said.
Judging by the film’s success, he must have gotten something right: “Coco” is Mexico’s highest-grossing film of all time, bringing in $57.8 million here, out of a total of more than $730 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.
It has also been a success with critics, winning the BAFTA award for best animated film and 11 Annie Awards, for excellence in animation.
It has all been a wild ride for Luis Angel: fame, media interviews, a nationwide tour and red-carpet galas with co-stars like Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal.
Luis Angel’s musical hero is Pedro Infante, the star of dozens of classic musicals from the golden age of Mexican cinema, from the 1930s to 1950s.
Infante was the inspiration for the superstar musician in “Coco,” Ernesto de la Cruz — who is, fittingly, Miguel’s hero in the movie.
But unlike Miguel, who is growing up in a family where music is forbidden because of a dark secret from the past, Luis Angel says he got nothing but support from his mother, who is raising him alone.
He may get his fighting spirit from her.
“I endured a lot of criticism, for being a single mother and for supporting him in his dream of being a singer,” she said.
“I’ve done everything I could to help him. I’ve even gone as far as to climb on stage and sing with him to show him there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
The lesson was learned, says Luis Angel.
“If you have a dream, you have to grab hold of it and never let go.”

Mashrou’ Leila to headline Apple’s first-ever Balcony Music Sessions in Dubai

Mashrou’ Leila will perform in Dubai on Dec.14.(Supplied)
Updated 13 December 2018

Mashrou’ Leila to headline Apple’s first-ever Balcony Music Sessions in Dubai

  • Mashrou’ Leila will headline the Apple Music’s first-ever Balcony Music Sessions in Dubai
  • Other regional artists will be performing at the Apple event as well

DUBAI: Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila will headline the Apple Music’s first-ever Balcony Music Sessions in Dubai on Dec. 14.

The popular band will perform on the balcony of the brand’s flagship retail space in The Dubai Mall and will be joined by a host of other artists from the region.

Saudi singer Hamza Hawsawi will perform his singles “Find You,” “Frame of Mind,” and “Somewhere in Between,” while Jordanian singer-songwriter Hana Malhas will take to the balcony with her songs “Nasi,” “Code,” and “How We Love.”

Syrian-born singer Ghaliaa, known for her original style of acoustic storytelling, and Emirati singer-songwriter Hamdan Al-Abri, lead vocalist for the band ABRI who are known for their sharp lyrics and suave soul-funk sound as well as their performances alongside musical greats Kanye West and Quincy Jones, will also perform at the event, which kicks off at 2 p.m. local time.

After the performances, fans will have to chance to ask each of the indie artists about their musical inspirations and will also be treated to short talks by the musicians.

“We are excited to see the launch of The Balcony Series this week. Support from major brands is rare in the region and to have a forward-thinking and daring brand like Apple initiate a project like this is strongly needed. We can’t wait to be back in Dubai and see everyone there,” Mashrou Leila’s composer and multi-instrumentalist Firas Abou Fakher said in a released statement.

“This is a one of a kind opportunity. I’m so thankful for the insane love, support, and motivation I have been receiving since day one from the community. We, as artists in the Arab world, are very thrilled to have a platform such as Apple Music which features our creative work with the world and helps us gain exposure and resonance,” Ghaliaa added in a released statement.