Finding the Inspiration Behind “Tattooed Trucks of Nepal”

Throughout Nepal, large freight trucks painted by artists provide visual entertainment for travelers along the highways and dangerous mountain roads of the Himalayas. These trucks captivated UC San Diego Department of Theatre and Dance lecturer emeritus Ron Ranson, who taught theatre design and painting for the stage. Ranson turned his fascination with this colorful art form into the documentary “Tattooed Trucks of Nepal – Horn Please!” now playing on UCTV.

We asked Ranson to talk about his journey and inspiration to create this film.

UCTV: How did you end up in Nepal?

Ranson: I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal soon after the Peace Corps was established there in 1962. I served in Nepal from 1964-66. This post was a jungle setting with tigers, rhinos, crocodiles and other wild animals, as opposed the mountain set-tings that Nepal is more known for. I have visited there five times over those years – visiting old friends and students and doing a lot trekking with my family.

UC San Diego lecturer emeritus Ron Ranson as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching in his Nepali classroom in 1965.

UCTV: Why did you decide to produce this documentary?

Ranson: Two of my Nepali photographer friends were out of work after the earth-quakes of 2015. I read an article in a Nepali newspaper about truck and bus painting and decided to investigate as I thought it would make an unusual and arty story. We started work in January 2017 and finished in August 2021.

UCTV: How did making this film change your understanding of Nepal and its people?

Ranson: There have been many changes to Nepali culture since I was there in 1964. I’m impressed that as the “concrete jungle” of Kathmandu pushes in on traditional icons of Nepali culture there is another way of expressing what is really important to them…images of their spiritual life, sporting heroes of Europe (!), Bob Marley (!) and traditional images of their families. Nepali are very adaptable – and this shows what they can do.

Ranson (right) with Kanil Kumar Choudary, a truck painter, while filming on location in Banepa, Nepal.

UCTV: What’s one thing you’d like viewers to take away from this story?

Ranson: The people have been kind, openhearted and generous – even when they didn’t have much to give. I would like to think I’ve given them a voice in the world to their unique art and creative expression.

Watch Tattooed Trucks of Nepal – Horn Please.

La Jolla Symphony & Chorus, Virtually

Rooted in San Diego for over 60 years, the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus presents concerts of ground-breaking, traditional and contemporary classical music. UCTV has had the privilege of partnering with LJS&C for over twenty-five years.

While we had hoped to record the first concert of the new season at UC San Diego’s Mandeville Auditorium with an audience, the revised opening concert gathered as many of the players of the full orchestra as possible, in a safe environment for indoor performance. The result is this virtual concert that transforms the traditional orchestra to feature small ensembles highlighting the core of talented musicians.

This concert is in three sections, representing the various orchestral instrument families – brass, winds, and strings.

La Jolla Symphony Brass:
William Byrd: The Earl of Oxford’s March
Gabrieli: Canzoni in Echo
Tielman Susato: Pavane Bataille

La Jolla Symphony Winds:
Mozart: Serenade for Winds in C-Minor; K388

La Jolla Symphony Strings:
Barber: Adagio for Strings
Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings

Watch this presentation of Music is Always Subject to Change by the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus.

SoCal Mexican Roots Rock and Soul Band

Grammy Award-winning group La Santa Cecilia, named for the patron saint of music, is composed of accordionist and requinto player Jose ‘Pepe’ Carlos, bassist Alex Bendaña, percussionist Miguel ‘Oso’ Ramirez, and vocalist ‘La Marisoul.’ They were raised here fully bilingual and bicultural.

They are dedicated to voicing the experience of a new bicultural generation in the United States, fully immersed in modern music, but still close to its Latin American influences and Mexican heritage.

Their music is rooted in their Mexican heritage, but also inspired by traditions of bossa nova, rumba, bolero, tango, jazz, rock, and klezmer.

They have made seven albums, and their 2013 release Treinta Días won the Grammy for Best Latin Rock Album (Alternative or Urban). They have also been nominated for two Latin Grammies, and their album El Valor was named one of the best of the year by NPR’s Alt Latino.

Watch La Santa Cecilia in Concert.

Mariachi Over the Rainbow

Mariachi is a music genre steeped in machismo, by straight men in glitzy charro suits and sombreros singing songs of love and lust about women. Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles (Rainbow Mariachi) challenges that.

The group prides itself on being the world’s first LGBTQ mariachi band. Their tight, energetic, and intricate sound has been honed by the work they’ve had to do to navigate the typically hypermasculine and heteronormative world of mariachi as gay and trans musicians.

Of course, the group’s social power would be nothing if their music-making were not at a high level. Their dual mission of being a respected musical group and advocating for social equality for the LGBTQ community has won the hearts and minds of many mariachi enthusiasts.

The band has performed at numerous gay and transgender pride events as well as the #SchoolsNotPrisons tour for the California Endowment. They have been featured multiple times on Univision morning shows, and highlighted many times in the press.

Watch Mariachi Arcoiris.

Music is Community

For Andrés Martín, “music is community,” and his career path bears out this assertion. Native of Buenos Aires, Argentina and resident of Tijuana, Mexico bassist, arranger, and composer Martín has performed with orchestras, chamber ensembles, and as a soloist throughout Latin America, Europe, and the United States.

Since his arrival in Tijuana Martín has been immersed in teaching as well as performing as a soloist and chamber musician. He also crosses the border to San Diego frequently to perform as part of the Camarada ensemble, and it was Camarada that commissioned Unstoppable, a four-movement suite for flute, violin, and bass that also provided a fitting title for Camarada’s 2020/2021 season. As is typical of Martin’s work, Unstoppable draws upon his multicultural life experiences and broad influences for inspiration, blending jazz, Latin, classical, and world beat idioms to create a work that is engagingly eclectic, complex but accessible.

In conversation with Rafael Fernández de Castro, Director of UC San Diego’s Center for US-Mexican Studies, and Beth Ross Buckley, Co-Artistic Director of Camarada, Martin discusses Unstoppable’s genesis and structure and the importance of collaboration for maintaining artistic vitality, citing his work with Camarada as an example. Martin also stresses his commitment to cross-border projects as a means of building community, noting that their passion drives artists to create and connect no matter what the circumstances. He is a member of the Orquesta de Baja California, and also organizes and directs Contrabajos de Baja California A.C., an academy that celebrates a yearly international double bass festival and chamber music course in Tijuana.

Above all, Martín describes the goal that drives his work as conveying emotional truths about the human spirit and our shared aspirations, something for which music is uniquely suited.

Watch Andrés Martin’s Unstoppable.