T ISH HINOJOSA, the youngest of thirteen children, was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. It was there that she was first exposed to the songs of her Mexican culture. Traditional and popular Mexican music was a constant presence during her childhood and then she became enamored of the songs of the Beatles and the Byrds. It wasn’t long before she took up the guitar and started performing in coffeehouses and on San Antonio’s River Walk. Tish discovered that the Spanish language was a natural fit for many of her songs and she began to establish a bi-cultural fan base. Tish’s own mandate is that, with her music, she is able to show how diverse Hispanic music and culture is. The intertwining of both English and Spanish in her song’s lyrics certainly achieves that goal.
Tish’s entry into professional music began in 1979 when she was a finalist at the Kerville Folk Festival “New Folk” competition. She moved to New Mexico and nurtured her love of country music. Her first recorded effort was a collection of songs written from 1980 to 1987 called from “Taos to Tennessee.” Upon her relocation to Austin and meeting up with her collaborator, Martin Dykhuis, more albums were released. “Culture Swing” from 1992 was a pivotal album for Tish and gained her much recognition from fans and press alike. But it was her next album, “Destiny’s Gate,” that really took the folk world by storm. One critic said: “As good as Hinojosa’s previous albums were, this is the recording that should win her the audience that also likes Nanci Griffith and Lucinda Williams. Hinojosa writes lush, seductive melodies and brings them home with a big, confident voice. Hinojosa tackles social problems quite credibly on the English-language ‘Yesterday’s Papers’ and the Spanish-language ‘Noche sin estrellas,’ but her greatest triumphs come on seemingly simple love songs.”
One project that was special to Hinojosa was the recording of a bilingual collection of songs for children. As Tish says, “Children are simultaneously a tough and sensitive, perceptive audience.” Balancing the message, the words, the instrumentation and the arrangements were “de gran importancia.” Tish feels strongly about bilingualism and has become an advocate and outspoken spokeswoman for bilingual education. In an article she writes: “In school districts all around the country, there are children entering kindergarten who, besides quickly learning English, can recite entire poems in Spanish and express confident, sophisticated thoughts in their native tongue. In a few years of schooling, this “affliction” will be cured, sooner if we heed the demands of those who insist on English-only at all times. Not only do the immigrant children lose, but all our children miss out on one of life’s best opportunities.”
One insightful music reviewer noted that Tish Hinojosa lacks “mystique.” That is not a bad thing, mind you. The fact that Tish relays her impassioned musical message to her audiences and does so very sweetly and sincerely makes an impact and a genuine impression on all who hear her sing.
Hinojosa's lack of mystique has nothing to do with blandness. It has to do with a complete rejection of overt artifice pretense and inflated gesture.
On Tuesday at the Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana, Hinojosa did not use songs as vehicles to advance an image, an ego, a persona, a career. She subsumed herself to the thematic substance and graceful flow of her music — an act of great purity made possible by her rare purity of voice.
Here was an artist — singing in English and Spanish and backed by a guitarist and a keyboards-accordion player — who trusted that her songs were meaningful and graceful, that her voice was lovely and that nothing more would be needed to reach her audience.
She was right. The gathering of 150 or so fans was enthralled, both by the eight-song sequence of “Labyrinth”-ine mysteries and the earthy folk-rock, country and Tex-Mex music that followed.
—Los Angeles Times