Tagged: María y Jóse

NXNW, MX

December 13th, 2012 Permalink

             After a dark spell of catastrophic drug violence sparked a do-it-yourself cultural response that ruptured the old ways of doing things, a unique cultural climate has emerged in Tijuana in recent years. With little support from the city that gave rise to its sounds, Tijuana has become an epicenter […]

"Tijuana" "Tijuanalandia" "Jason Thomas Fritz" All My Friends" "Norte Sonoro" 
"Tijuana" "Tijuanalandia" "Jason Thomas Fritz" All My Friends" "Norte Sonoro" "Maria y Jose" 
"Tijuana" "Tijuanalandia" "Jason Thomas Fritz" All My Friends" "Norte Sonoro" 
"Tijuana" "Tijuanalandia" "Jason Thomas Fritz" All My Friends" "Norte Sonoro" "Venus X" 
"Tijuana" "Tijuanalandia" "Jason Thomas Fritz" All My Friends" "Norte Sonoro" "Tijuana" "Tijuanalandia" "Jason Thomas Fritz" All My Friends" "Norte Sonoro" 
"Tijuana" "Tijuanalandia" "Jason Thomas Fritz" All My Friends" "Norte Sonoro" 
After a dark spell of catastrophic drug violence sparked a do-it-yourself cultural response that ruptured the old ways of doing things, a unique cultural climate has emerged in Tijuana in recent years. With little support from the city that gave rise to its sounds, Tijuana has become an epicenter of avant-garde music in Mexico, with some of the world’s most influential music makers are eyeing what’s happening here. Emerging Tijuana’s ‘moment of truth’ came recently, during three days of loosely coordinated music and art events that signaled that Tijuana is a place that can attract cutting edge international acts, but more importantly, it’s a city recognized around the world for producing them. You can read about the rise of Tijuana’s new musical vanguard here, in a piece I wrote for the Los Angeles public television station KCET’s Artbound website.

Where a Beach Town and Border Violence Meet

October 3rd, 2012 Permalink

  After a second round beers at an empty corner dive bar in downtown Tijuana, aptly named ‘La Esquina,’ Tony Gallardo, the mind behind the Tijuana nu-tropical act Mariá y José, excused himself for a second. The last of the late afternoon light was streaming through the door and the show ‘Cops’ played at low […]

Jason Thomas Fritz Tony Gallardo II Maria y Jose Tijuana 

After a second round beers at an empty corner dive bar in downtown Tijuana, aptly named ‘La Esquina,’ Tony Gallardo, the mind behind the Tijuana nu-tropical act Mariá y José, excused himself for a second. The last of the late afternoon light was streaming through the door and the show ‘Cops’ played at low volume on the television set. No less than thirteen posters of Marilyn Monroe graced the bar’s purple walls. After returning to the table, Gallardo sat back down, took a swig from his Tecate and told me about a handwritten sign he had seen posted in the bar’s bathroom.

‘People carrying small arms, please hit the target,’ it read, with decorative lettering and a Sharpie-sketch of a hand gun that included the bullet’s trajectory in dashes. Gallardo thought it literal. He admitted that the Spanish wordplay sailed above his head on first read. He didn’t pick up on the small penis reference, nor that ‘target’ meant toilet, not victim. Only after a minute or so did he get the joke.

While I caught that it was in jest upon Gallardo’s retelling, I wasn’t sure if the potty humor—in its most literal sense—aspired to be sophomoric, or just straight black. Comedy leans dark in Mexico. And the sad truth is, some of Tijuana’s best little bars have been lit up with gunfire during the warring years of the recent past. At one of my favorite places, an elegant, handsome cocktail waitress in her 60s, with perfectly coiffed hair, is said to still carry a bullet in her from the day assassins came for an ex-politician and sprayed the bar with gunfire, killing him and several others.

After my third bottle, it was my turn, and I scuttled toward the men’s room. The bathroom door had a life size Scarface decal plastered to it. It reminded of the time Gallardo mentioned that he liked his name because it sounded so much like Tony Montana. I became nearly convinced that Gallardo might be onto something with his literal first reading. Pragmatic instructions for a violent town. A contemporary Tijuana version of the very matter of fact ‘Please do not shoot the piano player’ sign Oscar Wilde spotted at old west saloon in the rough-and-tumble—and appropriately named—town of Leadville, Colorado in 1883.

 
The New Leadville
 

Gallardo started Mariá y José during the height of Tijuana’s bloodletting. It’s impossible to separate his music from the context it was created in. Teodoro ‘El Teo’ García Simental, a renegade lieutenant from the Tijuana Cartel was at war with his former bosses for control of city. The violence was shocking. Bodies dissolved in acid, beheadings, people hung from highway overpasses, mid day shootouts on the city’s busiest thoroughfares. Leadville could have easily been Tijuana’s nickname.

Unlike his more business minded former employers who preferred to concentrate on drug trafficking, ‘El Teo’ made kidnapping a lucrative diversification of his portfolio, with many of the cells made up of moonlighting police.

The city was sliding towards chaos, as the wave of killing and kidnappings paralyzed Tijuana. Army convoys and caravans of masked police patrolled the streets. People who could fled across the border to San Diego.

Gallardo recalled the time when he was certain he was being abducted by the police. The authorities had stopped him for driving a beat up 1995 Chevy Camaro with fading paint. Gallardo, a self described nini [ni estudia ni trabaja] —as the much maligned, problematic set of young people who ‘neither work, nor study’ in Mexico are called—admitted to the authorities to just that, that he neither worked nor studied. For the police, it added up to being involved in the drug trade. They told Gallardo his government issued identification looked fraudulent, and that he was living well beyond his means with a car like that. In Gallardo’s mind, the absurdity of being mistaken for a narco in a decade old beater with fading paint pointed to one thing. ‘Is this a kidnapping?’ he asked. It wasn’t, and the police eventually let him go.

 
Ricky Martin and GG Allin’s Lovechild
 

Gallardo has a gift for comic delivery, both when intended or inadvertent. He is charming and scattered, with hypnotic brown eyes, a rail thin frame and cocksure swagger that approaches believability, but tempered by a boyishness falling well below his 25 years.

In the very same breath, without the slightest indication of its contradictions, he professed his desire to be both the next Ricky Martin and the incarnate of the infamous cult punk legend GG Allin.

It’s these schizophrenia oscillations that provide the foundation for his genre defying sounds—orchestral-like arrangements that meld tropical inflections, pop hooks, and treble-heavy techno with well-edited samples mined from musical genres of the Latin America.

Just a few seconds of Climaco Sarmiento’s ‘La Pata y El Pato,’ pulled from a compilation of songs by Colombian record label Discos Fuentes, was enough to construct Mariá y José’s first song, ‘Espíritu Invisible.’ He made it sound effortless. ‘I grabbed a sample of a song I really liked…put it on loop in FruityLoops and it became “Espíritu Invisible,”’ Gallardo said. ‘I just added the kick and some hi hat and that’s it.’ Although he can’t play an instrument, Gallardo has become a virtuoso of sampling and pirated music programs.

Gallardo’s introspective lo-fi laptop reinventions, neatly packaged with an aesthetic that is as disparate as his music—equal parts syncretic folk Catholicism and the GIFs-gone-awry of the early internet era—were eye opening here in Tijuana.

 
Sigue la violencia Sing Alongs
 

‘Espíritu Invisible’ had reverberations. ‘Everything changed after that,’ said Reuben Torres, of the Tijuana band Los Macuanos. Gallardo’s musician friends began to coalesce around the concept of reworking the hemisphere’s traditional sounds into something brand new. There were stirrings of a new musical current in the city at the height of the violence as a direct response to it. Tijuana’s ruidosón music movement was born.

More of an idea than a rigidly defined genre, Tijuana Djs, producers, and bands like Santos, El Hijo de La Diabla and Los Macuanos started creating their own take on the ruidosón sound, loosely based on ‘Sampling old, vintage cumbia songs…doing little micro loops, and mixing it with techno-ish, dance floor oriented beats,’ as Moisés López of Los Macuanos describes it. ‘We wanted to embrace that darkness [in Tijuana] and channel it into something creative. It’s doom but at the same time, it’s party music.’

The Mariá y José song ‘Violentao’ best embodies this incongruence. As dancey as it is dark, ‘Violentao’ has become an anthem of sorts in Tijuana for the hip set coming of age in Mexico’s drug war. Catchiest at the chorus, crowds at Mariá y José always chant its lyrics the loudest while singing along, ‘Sigue la violencia, Sigue la violencia’ — the violence continues.

Tijuana’s worst days appear to be in its past, as a fragile peace brokered by rival cartels holds. Last year saw a dramatic drop in the killings. Its little bars are no longer getting shot up, and the pervasive fear of being abducted has faded. If this calm continues, and a few more years of it pass, perhaps patrons of La Esquina won’t think twice about meaning of a silly hand drawn sign in it’s dingy bathroom. But for the generation of youth in Tijuana that came of age during the worst of it, the city’s violence was defining. Confronting it creatively, Mariá y José gave Tijuana its soundtrack—one that could only exist where a tropical beach town and border violence meet.

The Current Current: Scenes From a Scene

June 1st, 2010 Permalink

  Mexico’s Emerging Sound   With lo-fi laptop compositions constructed from cheap synths, jacked beats, and inflected with the regional rhythms of the Americas, Mexico’s hip, digitally savvy twenty-somethings have created a ‘new tendency’ in digital music that has the caught the ear of influential music blogs, causing the rest of the world to take […]



 
Mexico’s Emerging Sound
 

With lo-fi laptop compositions constructed from cheap synths, jacked beats, and inflected with the regional rhythms of the Americas, Mexico’s hip, digitally savvy twenty-somethings have created a ‘new tendency’ in digital music that has the caught the ear of influential music blogs, causing the rest of the world to take notice.

Tijuana—one of the influential centers of ‘hurache-gaze,’ a Mexican reinvention of shoegaze—is home to the genre’s up-and-comers, Los Macuanos, María y Jóse, Santos, and Unsexy Nerd Ponies, who along with Guadalajara’s Los Amparito, Pepepe, and Aguascalientes’ Capullo, have crafted a sound that has been met with great acclaim from hipster tastemakers.

Diplo’s Mad Decent blog voted María y Jóse runner up in the Major Lazer’s Hold the Line remix contest; Europe’s Generation Bass keeps news of, and remixes by, Unsexy Nerd Ponies, Los Macuanos and María y Jóse in regular rotation on their blog; Panamérika has placed Capullo, María y Jóse and Los Macuanos on their 2010 Bands to Watch list; MTV’s Iggy Blog placed Los Amparito on their ‘Bands We Like’ list, calling them a ‘sunshiny, sample-heavy Mexican Animal Collective’; Australia’s Scatterblog praised Tijuana’s music scene, noting its ‘fresh crop of producers [who] hold back at nothing and are now well and truly beginning to flex their muscles’; The 2010 Indie-O Music Awards recognized Mexico’s most exciting new band, Los Amparito, as this year’s best new artist; and Club Fonograma called Los Macuanos, María y Jóse and Los Amparito their ‘favorite new Mexican acts.’
 
The Tijuana Paradox
 

While Tijuana is home to some of the most exciting new music being produced, there is little audience for cutting edge local bands on an upward arc. This is Tijuana’s paradox – a city home to an avant guarde music scene that goes unnoticed locally, but has the rest of the globe buzzing. Recently, the city recently played host to Guacamole Fest, a two day music festival showcasing bands from both Tijuana, and around Mexico, at the forefront of this scene. [With Colombia/Canada’s Lido Pimienta as a special guest]

Undoubtably, it was the most exciting musical event this city has seen in at least a year. The festival, however, was met with little fanfare in Tijuana, as neither the hometown talent nor the blogosphere’s darlings from elsewhere playing Tijuana for the first time were enough to get more than 40 people to come out. Mid-decade Brooklyn-centric indy and dated Euro-electro still hold sway here and it has proven difficult for Tijuana’s best new acts to emerge from the shadows of Nortec’s fading relevance.

Mexico’s subcultural musical stirrings have created an ascendant new sound and with it, a new scene. Guacamole Fest was its defining moment. Something is happening here, and the rest of the world is starting to pay attention.