A melodious guitar sampled over a boom bap beat transmits through the airwaves on Radio Santa Ana every Tuesday evening and announces the beginning of “Canciones Bordadas.” Yuri Velasco, a former Chulita Vinyl Club deejay, introduces herself on the low-power FM station show during a recent episode before delving into an eclectic hour of music that spans Los Tigres del Norte to the Avett Brothers, a North Carolina folk rock band.
For the past year, listeners in and around Santa Ana have come to expect nothing less.
“It’s all over the place,” Velasco says of her playlists, with a laugh. “That’s how I am. I don’t like listening to just one genre. I’ll get bored. I need to hear different melodies, rhythms and languages, too.”
Taking inspiration from Mexican embroidery, a skill her tía passed the time with after immigrating to the United States, Velasco knows that seamlessly threading through musical genres and generations is no easy task. But she’s been up to the challenge ever since Sali Heraldez of SolArt Radio suggested doing a show of her own last year to shake off pandemic restlessness at home.
“I was going crazy,” says Velasco. “I wasn’t going out dancing. That’s what I usually do to keep me mentally healthy.”
She also missed concerts. And even though Velasco kept up with bomba workshops online, there still lingered a creative void in everyday life. Only, she didn’t know much about how to put a radio show together, especially remotely as the station housed inside El Centro Cultural de Mexico remained off-limits due to the pandemic.
As a member of the Chulita Vinyl Club collective, Velasco had put together a mix as DJ Yuri before and spun records at numerous events in the community. Those experiences gave her the confidence to do a radio show; all she needed was some tips on technology to get going.
Carla Zarate, who oversees Radio Santa Ana, helped Velasco get started with what equipment to buy, including a black Snowball microphone. Radio Jarochelo’s César Castro, another friend, gave some pointers on gathering songs for playlists without breaking the bank. With everything assembled, all the show needed was an identity.
“When I was in Chulita Vinyl Club, one of our members made a banner for us,” says Velasco. “She made this beautiful bordado that said ‘Chulita Vinyl Club Santa Ana.’ Then I started thinking back to what my family’s connection to bordados was.”
Velasco recalled her tía stitching bordados before also thinking about how music connects people. When the show debuted in November, she played vinyl records from Julio Jaramillo, Trio Los Panchos, Javier Solís and Juan Gabriel before turning the microphone over to her parents. On future episodes, Velasco invited friends to similarly share stories about songs that held special meaning in their lives.
During one program, Anaheim poet Jesus Cortez elaborated on his relationship with hip-hop and recounted explaining 2Pac’s “Dear Mama” to his immigrant mom as a song that celebrates a single mother’s virtues amid poverty and hardship. Velasco mentioned that she learned how to speak English growing up with some help from the genre.
“I’ve learned a lot about my friends,” she says of past shows. “It just brings me closer to them.”
Aside from the crafty concept behind “Canciones Bordadas,” the show is also bilingual with Velasco hosting in English and español to go along with the multilingual music. She didn’t put much thought behind that other than wanting to produce something both her parents, nieces and nephews could tune into.
“It wasn’t intentional,” she says. “It flowed naturally. That’s a reflection of Santa Ana and Orange County.”
The same is true of the eclectic playlists—from punk to cumbia to rock en español and boleros—which can be the soundtrack heard in multigenerational households in Santa Ana and like the Westminster one she grew up in.
Going forward with the program, Velasco is still looking for ways to improve after putting 15 episodes under her belt. She wants to include the voices of more Santaneros and entertained the idea of doing vox pop interviews at local parks before the pandemic’s social distancing guidelines got in the way.
Whatever comes next, the emphasis is always going to be on having an embroidered community through music and stories.
“In a sense, we’re all connected,” says Velasco. “A song could mean one thing to me but another thing to you. I just wanted to connect people’s life soundtrack.”
Canciones Bordadas can be heard Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on
Radio Santa Ana 104.7 FM or streaming online live at radiosantaana.org
Gabriel San Román is a contributor to Times OC and a former OC Weekly staff writer. Subscribe to his weekly Slingshot! Newsletter. And in case anyone is wondering, he's still the tallest Mexican in OC.