Sonido del Valle highlights culture with records

Silly side of Sonido del valle—Rene Perez (right) and Hector Flores own Sonido del Valle in Boyle Heights where they host shows for local bands in order to support their community and its culture. CN/Diego Linares

By Luis Castilla

Sonido del Valle is a cultural hub that is bringing vinyl records back to Boyle Heights. The record store is full of culture and makes it clear it is there to serve the community.

It’s owned by Hector Flores and Rene Perez. Flores and Perez had already been selling records for years at pop-ups shops and art walks prior to opening the store.

Having both grown up in Boyle Heights, they noticed that there were no record stores in their neighborhood. “There was a void for record stores,” says Perez.

Now that Sonido del Valle has come to Boyle Heights, the record store has become a gathering place for local artists and  “diggers,” people who dig through record bins, looking for the perfect record.

The store carries a little bit of everything, but the owners make sure that their Latin section is always a priority, keeping it nice and full.

Sonido del Valle opened in Oct. 2016, but it has already made a significant impact on the people who visit the store. Humberto Terrones Esquivel, host of online station Radio Espacio, is a friend of the record store owners and an East Los Angeles College alumnus.

Esquivel grew up in the 1980s and recalls the rise of Amoeba Music, the self-described world’s largest independent record store. “It gobbled up indie record stores,” says Esquivel. He also recalls thinking to himself while in Boyle Heights in 2016, “You know what we need? We need a record store.” A few weeks later, Sonido del Valle opened up.

“This is a community hub. The neutral, older, younger, bohemian find themselves here,” says Esquivel. He also said that the phrase “El Disco Es Cultura,” a phrase printed on genuine Latin American records which translates to “the record is culture,” was something he felt a strong connection with when he was in Sonido del Valle.

Another former Elan Moises Ruiz, also known as DJ Sapo, frequents Sonido del Valle, visiting the record store after work. “A record is so special because if it’s in good condition, it’s worth a lot,” says Ruiz.

He says that records have been making a comeback, especially with the emergence of all-women DJ clubs like Girls Gone Vinyl, formed in 2015, and Chulita Vinyl Club, formed in 2014, both made up entirely of women of color.

Sonido del Valle hosts shows for local bands and offers free DJ classes taught by friends of the owners. Aside from records, the store also sells cassettes, CDs, sound equipment and turntables.

Sonido del Valle shares a space with Other Books, a bookstore owned by Denise Diaz and Adam Bernales. Diaz says they opened the store because there weren’t many bookstores in the area.

“Most people are not really exposed to books,” says Diaz. Other Books hosts readings and signings by local authors. They sell classic literature, Latin American, Spanish, poetry, zines and other types of books.

Sonido del Valle and Other Books share a room, creating an environment where people can grow and learn about the the world around them, art and their neighborhood.

Sonido del Valle and Other Books is located at 2006 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue. For more information on their upcoming events, visit their Instagram accounts, @sonidodelvalle and @otherbooksla. Sonido del Valle is open from noon to 8 p.m. Other Books is open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

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