Artists to Watch: Mexico City
Mexico City is enormous. Often tied with Seoul, South Korea (we’ll cover you soon enough, fine people of Seoul!) as the largest city in the world, the city is rarely quiet as traffic swarms, vendors peddle wares and snacks, and locals chatter around the Zocalo. Residents of this cosmopolitan metropolis, known colloquially as Chilangos, witness a wide range of local, regional, and international music. From local Ranchera ballads, to rolling regional cumbias, to gritty American punk rock and suave European house music, musicians in the Distrito Federal are never afraid to experiment with styles of music, making something uniquely Mexican in the process. Let’s take a closer look.
Rodrigo y Gabriela
Rodrigo y Gabriela have made quite a name for themselves over the past decade with their fast-paced flamenco (heavy metal-influenced) dueling guitars. The duo’s music is timeless, exciting, and totally instrumental. After growing up in middle-class Mexico City, the duo moved to Europe, busking around cities like Dublin and gaining a devoted cult following. Fast forward just a few years and Rodridgo y Gabriela have sold 1.2 millions records and contributed to scores of several movies, including Shrek and Pirates of the Caribbean. Not too shabby for a couple of flamenco virtuosos and their guitars.
Ximena Sariñana’s no stranger to the limelight. Growing up as a child star of the beloved telenovela soap operas, the 28-year-old singer and songwriter still acts and even scores films. Her music covers the whole spectrum of pop- from jazzy Norah Jones-like tunes to electro-pop Friday night anthems. In 2011, satisfied with her huge success in Mexico, Ximena decided to release an English-language album stateside, to high praise from publications like Rolling Stone and Billboard. With all the creative freedom Ximena has, we can only guess what’s up next from this universally-loved artist.
One of the biggest rock bands out of Mexico, Zoé gives props to bands like Duran Duran and New Order while still maintaining a platinum-level rock star status in their home country. Embodying the punk rock do-it-yourself ethos, the band got started organizing their own shows and self-releasing their music. As they exploded in popularity, the band released their breakthrough album with Sony Records, and when the deal for the second record didn’t pan out, they simply self-released their own EP. After several lineup changes and time spent making their earlier Beatles-influenced tunes, the band seems settled in the sweet spot between a new wave-y groove and dreamy psychedelic pop.
Though she was born in Chile, Mariel Mariel now resides in Mexico City, blending urban music from different regions of Latin America (Mexico, Chile, Colombia) with pop sensibility and grooves that can fall anywhere in-between hip-hop and cumbia. She’s garnered somewhat of an underground/underdog status, but having only released a couple singles and a recent EP, we can expect plenty more fresh music from Mariel Mariel in the near future.
Dubbed the queen of “anar-cumbia” Amandititita blends punk rock social commentary with rapped vocals and a morphed interpretation of traditional Mexican cumbia. As the daughter of famous Mexican musician Rodrigo Gonzalez, the singer has forged her own path, penning pump-up songs that provide commentary on the social inequities that are powerfully funny.
Mexican New Wave rockers Rey Pila are a truly international-sounding band. Like a Latin blend of Depeche Mode, The Strokes, and Devo, this bi-lingual quartet sounds totally at home releasing singles on Strokes’ frontman Julian Casablacas’ Cult Records. With such a universal sound, it’s no surprise they’ve played shows with plenty of celebrated indie artists including Interpol, TV on The Radio, and Ariel Pink. Definitely excited to see what else Rey Pila has to offer.
Chikita Violenta would be right at home on any college campus in the US. Their sound has the classic college rock vibe of bands like Pavement or Build To Spill: angst-y yet upbeat, built around guitar and hard-hitting drums. Their wistful, cold weather production is thanks to recording much of their second and third albums in Toronto, and releasing their record on famed Canadian indie label Arts & Crafts, longtime home of bands like Broken Social Scene. Here’s hoping the trio will release some fresh material soon!
Sonido Lasser Drakar
Formed from a carefree experiment in making electronic music, the duo Sonido Lasser Drakar also known as Maria Daniela y Su Sonido Lasser depending on who you ask, quickly realized they had something serious on their hands. Sonically situated somewhere between the Drive soundtrack and early The Knife, this quirky, straightforward group has an endearing, worldly vibe representative of the exciting music Mexico City music scene. One listen to their 8-bit digital music and Maria Daniela’s endearing English-as-a-second-language lyrics and you’ll be hooked too.
Los Fancy Free
Born to a Swedish hippy Mennonite couple in northern Mexico, Los Fancy Free Frontman Martin Thulin’s music is appropriately unique. It sounds something like Peter, Bjorn, and John tossed in a blender with the Of Montreal and garnished with a healthy layer of Mexican Folk. There’s psychedelia, disco, punk, and indie all wrapped in a hectic and exciting vaudevillian package.
February 25, 2014 via Pepsi