Rhinestone Vaquero

Joan Sebastian, the king of the jaripeo, is making a glorious appearance in L.A. Jari-what? The jaripeo is a Mexican tradition — a local rodeo, usually held in a small rancho as part of a festive gathering. The main event is the bull riding, in which jinetes (bull riders), usually young men, try to ride one-ton bucking bulls while a banda of trumpets, clarinets, a huge tuba and a bass drum jam out hyperkinetically.The jaripeo is a poor man’s sport — the sport of the valiente, the rough and tough. Unlike American cowboys, jinetes don’t wear helmets or chest protectors. They go to battle in their lucky tejana hat, gloves and chaps, mounting the bull and grabbing the rope wrapped around it. Roaring mad, the animal bursts from the chute, tossing his rider back and forth like a rag doll until he’s unceremoniously launched off and in some cases killed. (Homemade videos of such deaths are hot sellers in Latino L.A.) After the last bull has been roped in, it’s time for the baile (dance). The crowd gathers around the bandstand and couples crowd the dirt arena, stirring up a dust storm as they two-step to the music.Fifty-four-year-old singer-songwriter Sebastian, who has recorded more than 30 albums, also raises his own bulls back on his ranch in Mexico, and his signature is performing atop one of his prized horses. Whether singing on the grandstand or in the saddle, this dude puts on an authentic show: In one of his killer tambora songs, “Soy Como Quiero Ser,” he proudly sings, “I’m how I want to be/Friend to all/Ranchero down to my elbows.”Sebastian’s battle with cancer hasn’t stopped him. In a recent interview, he said, “When the doctors told me I had cancer, it inspired me to fight. So I wrote a song.” It was titled “El Toro.”Staples Center • November 25 • with Paquita La Del Barrio, Ramon Ayala, and Enanitos Toreros (Midget Bullfighters)


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