So yet another school has lost its sousaphones to thieves who apparently will spare no effort, and overlook many other valuable items, to make off only with the tubas.
San Fernando High School’s marching band had its only two tubas stolen last month. The thieves broke into one band room, stole nothing, then broke into another and stole nothing but the tubas — overlooking guitars, violins, trumpets, drums, etc.
It’s all about banda music and the tuba’s newfound popularity here in LA, where it’s really the emblematic instrument of the era, much like the guitar was in the 1970s.
This is getting weird. SNL’s Weekend Update riffed off the stolen tuba story last night. Here’s the full show, check it out at minute 35 or so.
As it happens, I missed it. By weird coincidence, I was out last night at a rehearsal of a banda of guys calling themselves Los BuKnas de Culiacan (that would be a bastardization of Buchanan, the rum), in a garage in Downey (see photos above). Buchanan Rum is a prized drink in the Mexican narco world — a sign of class and having arrived.
One of the songs was “Si No Vienes Conmigo” — which involves a man threatening his girlfriend that if she doesn’t come with him, he’s going to kidnap her and not charge a ransom. Where’s the romance gone?
Actually the band is a mixture of banda and norteno — with tuba, baritone horn, plus accordion — and looks to me a lot like the beginnings of punk rock. Went to the club where they were playing after the rehearsal and they wouldn’t let me and two BBC colleagues in. Reporters strictly prohibited at El Potrero Club in Cudahy.
Santiago "Shagi" Mata, tuba player, Maywood, CA
The LA band craze continues to claim high school tubas right and left.
Here’s a link to a story about the latest: Bell High School had two stolen over the weekend, valued at $6,000 apiece. Several other schools have had tubas stolen in recent months.
It’s all about the emergence of the tuba as the emblematic instrument for Southern California in this era, just as the electric guitar was for the 1970s.
With the arrival of Mexican immigrants, and their tradition of house parties, the tuba has become all the rage in SoCal. Great tubists in banda music, like Santiago Mata (pictured here), are paid more than other musicians.
Also, the Sierreno trio — tuba, guitar and accordion — has grown in popularity at these parties.
Hence, tubas, the most expensive of marching band instruments, are in high demand. Most of the thefts have taken place in predominantly Mexican immigrant areas — southeast of LA especially — where banda is hugely popular.
I’ve written a story about this phenomenon and one about the thefts of tubas that many instructors believe is the result.