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A perfect Mexo-Amercana blend
by jonathan zwickel on Sep 13, 2004
Swimming with sounds, the Tijuana night air is warm and heavy. Out of an upstairs window blows the echo of dense, stuttering timbale drum rolls, and an accordion stretches out a raunchy groan while a glossy trumpet and tuba squabble like mismatched brass cousins. Around the corner, inside the club, a feverish 808-thump imported from L.A. keeps the dance floor packed and sweaty. Car stereos blare an oil-and-water mix of 50 Cent and Los Tigres del Norte. They’re all hearing something different, but everyone on the street moves in synch to the music. Somehow it all belongs together, the sights and sounds that would be hard to reconcile anywhere but here. This is Tijuana, a struggling, thriving metropolis of almost two million residents, and with more than 100 thousand crossings every day, the busiest border in the world. This is Tijuana- everything you imagine, and much more that you don't.
For the past several years, the flourishing arts scene of Tijuana, Mexico has come as a surprise to outsiders familiar only with the crowded city's tequila shooters and donkey shows. The youth culture that has emerged- one bred on music, movies and fashion from both sides of the border- represents the new face of Tijuana. They have begun producing a body of work internationally recognized as a new form of cross-cultural insemination. At the head of this borderland movement is a group of musicians, VJs, filmmakers, and graphic designers known as the Nortec Collective. Their name, like their art, is a fusion of First and Third World elements, and explains the group's approach to making it.
Norteño refers to the popular northern Mexican dance music that incorporates accordion and guitars, slowly evolved from German polka. Where the innovation comes in is with the tec—short for techno, the modern music style and its accompanying technology of turntables, sequencers, and laptops. Nortec fuses indigenous styles like norteño, banda, with its bright, airy horns and tuba-driven low-end, and tambora, marked by rapid-fire percussion, together with a millennial breakbeat twist. It's an unlikely marriage that actually works; unlike a lot of multi-culti, sample-happy electronica, the Nortec Collective makes some of the most sophisticated, atmospheric and original electronic music to grace open-minded dance floors around the world.
In 1999, the seven projects that comprise the Collective released the dark, slinky Tijuana Sessions Volume 1 (Mil Records), which has reaped major jet-set acclaim and underground cred, and has carried the crew to throwdowns from Paris to Tokyo. The music's foundation is traditional but updated and repossessed- filtered, looped, and layered beyond recognition, horns, bells, and accordions are blended with a four-on-the-floor sensibility from across the border. The result is a sound endlessly evocative but wholly unique.
Probably the most widely recognized Nortec track, "Polaris" is a funky, full-figured timbale n' tuba tubthumper by Bostich. The song is the de-facto Nortec anthem and Bostich (aka Ramon Amezcua) is its unofficial ambassador. It was he, along with fellow TJ electronica enthusiast Pepe Mogt, who first coined the term "Nortec" in 1999 and began assembling the artists who have come to embody the Nortec ethic. On this present tour, Bostich, along with Collective members Terrestre, Plankton Man and Fussible, will be showcasing tracks from the upcoming Tijuana Sessions Volume 2, which will again feature the border-straddling mextronica that makes this music so enticing. NAFTA isn't all bad: if it's at all responsible for the brilliant new breed that is the Nortec Collective , then it's done one thing right.
www.nor-tec.org | www.milrecords.com
by jonathan zwickel on Sep 13, 2004