Kandi es La Reina Del Mariachi
Kandi is the “Queen of Mariachi,” a radio station owner plus a radio and television personality.
Not to be confused with Kany García, Kandi García was born Wilma Irene in San Antonio, where she attended Stafford Elementary, Anson Jones Middle School and was a member of the John Jay High School choir from where she graduated with the Class of 1982.
Her musical roots come from both sides of her family since her father Guillermo “Willie” Maldonado, with the exception of his brother Jesse, and Kandi’s uncles – José “Chepe,” Tony “El León,” Andy “El Cowboy” Maldonado and Euselio — all played guitar and sing. The latter also played accordion, harmonica and several other instruments.
On her maternal side, her mother, Irene’s brothers, Enrique, guitaron and requinto; and Ricardo Chavarria, vihuela and requinto; as Mariachi Ronda, performed at all the classy, luxury hotels and were the mainstay at the Hilton Palacio de Rio.
“With that kind of musical influence, I can honestly say that I have been singing since I could talk,” Kandi said during an interview at the Hispanic Entertainment Archives.
Therefore it is no surprise that Kandi sang at most assemblies and school talent shows during her formative years.
What sets Kandi apart from the majority of female singers is a voice that defies description. Yes, it’s strong and she hits every note with perfection, but few can few with the conviction and emotion that she puts into every song. She caresses the lyrics and sings them as the songwriter intended that his composition be interpreted.
“Last month I sang at the birthday of an 86-year-old lady and the seven-piece mariachi they had hired had already done ‘Las Mañanitas.’ What I did different was to walk up to the birthday girl, congratulate her and told everyone how special this day was and how lucky her children where to still have her. After a long spiel, I took her hand and sang ‘Las Mañanitas’ as I gazed into her eyes. I was singing from the heart and by the end of the song, there was not a dry eye in the ballroom. That is all I did different and without a mariachi group to back me up.”
In addition to gigging here and all over Texas with various mariachi groups, Kandi has also performed in New York and California.
Asked how she is able to pay Mariachi Unica, since she is always booked as Kandi y Mariachi Unica, the 48-year-old songbird said, “My entire family kind of made up that name because I’m the only one. And unica does mean ‘alone.’ Besides, I give 110 percent so I don’t need a live mariachi (group) to back me up. So I sing with pistas (music tracks) and once the audience hears me, they have no problem.”
This writer was once skeptical, but once he saw the state-of-the-art equipment Kandi set up at a gig and the sound it produced coupled with her collection of flamboyant costumes she wears, he and the entire audience soon forgot about the absence of a live mariachi because as she says, “When I sing, I do it with all my heart and with all my love.”
Asked how she received her singing title, Kandi said, “My father would say, ‘Tu eres la reina del mariachi.’ That’s how I got crowned as the queen of mariachi at 16.”
“However I don’t just sing mariachi, I also do Tejano, conjunto and country music. And I’m also a comedian”
Shifting the conversation to radio, Kandi says she began her on-the-air career during the early 1980s on KFHM, La M Grande AM 1160 with Alberto “Alegre” Calvo and Danny Casanova. In the mid ‘80s, she also taught customers how at dance at Desperado’s Tejano club.
“It was during this time that Danny, a bodyguard Ernest Choco Garza, would say, ‘You’re so sweet you give me a toothache. So after a few weeks, he and I created the nickname (Kandi), that is now my stage name,” the 48-year-old celebrity revealed.
Living up to her moniker, Kandi says, “When I perform I leave something sweet in their mind because I sing tunes that evoke memories, no matter how bad they may be, also songs about our culture and who we are, plus tunes they can sing along to so that leave a sweet taste in their mouth.”
Her most recent stint on radio was from 2009 to 2011 when she hosted her own ‘on-and-off-again’ show on KEDA, Radio Jalapeño.
“Now I own my own radio station – Texas Radio Music — and can be heard around the globe. Here I play local music and push the music that is San Antonio. I gave my station this name because Texas has a wide variety of music and I play it all.
In addition to being heard, I can also be seen on my ‘Amigos y Amigas, Mi Barrio’ internet television show.”
As for the future, Kandi says, “Growing up seeing my uncles singing “Vestido de Blanco” to the Bride at fancy weddings on the Riverwalk as a child, I thought being serenaded to as something very special, so when I turn fifty, because I am the Queen, I’m going to have a Queenceñera at the Palacio del Rio.”
All modesty aside, Kandi can be heard 24/7 at www.live365.com/index.live#cgi-bin/directory.cgi?searchdesc=Texas+Music+Radio. Just click on her picture where it says, “Texas Music Radio with Kandi G. Her vast collection of video interviews can be seen at www.facebook.com/reqs.php#/profile.php?id=1308789309 and on www.youtube.com.
In closing, Kandi, who is often hired to do mariachi exhibits and showcases in Mexico, also gives private voice lessons; and if anyone is in need of a mariachi instrument, outfit or accessory, drop by to see her at Mariachi Connection at 2106 West Commerce Street. So as can be seen, Kandi is like a mariachi one-stop.
For booking, one may contact radio and television’s new sweetheart at (210) 872-8218.