The heart of Carlos Arzate beats to the rhythm of blues, folk, country, rock, norteño and a “Sonoran soul.”

Born in Tucson with Mexican roots, since he was a kid, Arzate recognized music as a way to express the injustices vulnerable communities and immigrant families face in a border city.

“When you’re really poor you dream a lot about what you can do in the future,” Arzate told Arizona Luminaria.

He has fulfilled those dreams.

A standout member of the musical community in Arizona since the 1990s, Arzate has led bands such as Innisfail, American Android and Carlos Arzate & the Kind Souls.

He’s now thrilled to return to Tucson’s musical scene as part of TENWEST 2023. The week-long festival will welcome thousands of participants to Tucson from Nov. 4 to Nov. 10. 

Musician Carlos Arzate in Saguaro National Park West in 2018, photo for his album “Sonoran Soul.” Credit: Puspa Lohmeyer

The TENWEST Impact Festival started as an Arizona response to SXSW in Austin, Texas, said Matt Baquet, the principal producer and co-curator of the festival/conference. But it’s become something unique to Arizona, and has taken on its own Sonoran identity.

“The festival has become more cohesive as we’ve emphasized the elements that best fit together, and emphasized those connections,” Baquet told Arizona Luminaria.

Like Arzate, Baquet is a Tucson native.

Arzate will perform on Saturday, Nov. 4, playing with the band Ghost-Note at the Street Fest.

“This festival is a great opportunity for musicians, participants, ideas, and businesses,” Arzate said.

In his compositions you sense a deep respect for social justice and border cultures. He’s written music inspired by the tragedies immigrants face in the Sonoran desert.

 “On & On & On” is one of those songs.

The music starts as a slow walk, a sinuous rhythm. It can almost feel more like a story than a song. The lyrics include a poem by Tucson musician and artist Salvador Duran. The singing – in both English and Spanish at almost eight minutes – is a trek of its own.

“It’s about a person walking and dying in the desert,” Arzate said.

He remembers the origins of the song from the time he was playing with the band, Carlos Arzate & the Kind Souls.

He developed a deep love of norteño music as he listened to Ramón Ayala and Los Tigres del Norte.

“Singing is my life, my heart, my sun,” Arzate said. “I feel really proud of this city, being a child of Tucson.”

He passed on his love of music on to his children: Brandon, Alexia and Savanna all sing, compose, and play various instruments.

TENWEST kicks off with Street Fest between Sixth Avenue and Sixth Street just north of downtown.

The Street Fest launch will be outside with live music, art installations, play areas for children, a Galactic Glam parade, DJs, with food and street vendors.

Baquet said that “there’s something for everyone.”

You can sell, buy and hear accomplished soloists and fabulous bands. You will find culture, art, fashion and technology. And you can attend conferences with regional and national leaders.

It’s a platform to connect with Arizona.

Baquet described the event as “unique in its intersectional focus.”

“We believe everything is connected, so TENWEST highlights all those connections,” Baquet said, referring to the ties between technology, learning, creativity, culture and impact. 

Around 10,000 attendees are expected at this year’s Street Fest and hundreds of attendees at each TENWEST event. Startup Tucson founded the festival in 2015.

TENWEST attendees dance at Street Fest 2022 in downtown Tucson. Credit Jeaninne Kaufer

The festival will feature the music of Noah Gundersen; Silvana Estrada; Jenny and the Mexicats; Street Blues Family; The Senators; The Carnivaleros; Simple Pete; Oms; Desert Music Project; and Carlos Arzate, among others.

Baquet said that the name TENWEST was inspired by the Interstate 10 West, which you have to drive on when coming from Austin’s SXSW and heading to Arizona or California.

The keynote speakers will address topics ranging from planetary science to the archaeological explorations of the art of the Indigenous people of the Sonoran Desert. The speakers include Alexandra Rosen of GoDaddy; Dante Lauretta of Osiris-Rex; Shalin Jyotishi of Forbes, New America; Erin Boyd of Culdesac; Lakeysha Hallmon of The Village Market; Andy Ruben of Trove, among others.

The festival seeks to exhibit Tucson as a center of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.

“Representing all cultures and walks of life is a core goal for our organizing team,” Baquet said.

The vast diversity at TENWEST is a way to forge relationships.

“When these connections are recognized and celebrated, it can create a community network that’s stronger and more cohesive,” he said.

As strong as the lyrics of Carlos Arzate. As he sings in “On & On & On”:

Like a broken vase, dried leaves, the perfume escapes and flees to other orchards, steadfast and flirting … without nation, without love.

Without nation … without love.

When I return I will be a king.

Translation: John Washington

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Beatriz Limón es una periodista independiente que fue corresponsal en Arizona y Nuevo México de la Agencia Internacional de Noticias EFE. Licenciada en Ciencias de la Comunicación, fotógrafa profesional...