Forget about mariachis, folk guitar bands, and other dated clichés that cling to Mexican music. What’s currently happening in the Aztec country, especially in Mexico City, is light years away from all that. An energising wind has begun to rise above the sprawling city and its outskirts, bringing new artistic breath to its 22 million or so inhabitants. From the dreamy romanticism of capitaleña synth pop, to the silky RnB embodied by a fleet of young female artists such as the irresistible Girl Ultra and Noa Sainz; and not forgetting the label and collective NAAFI who are pushing the boundaries of club music, the soundtrack to CDMX – as the city is often referred to – is making great stylistic breakthroughs.
Start with “Nada Temes”, a feel-good track by the young multi-instrumentalist Ferraz, who opens this groovy playlist, then jump to the end of the selection and play the gritty and disturbing “Ollin” by the enigmatic Tijuana-born producer Benfika. They are world’s apart and yet they both embody the musical identity of Mexico. They are two ends of the same spectrum. On the one hand, a candid sweetness cradled by funk guitars, warm soul melodies, and vintage synths; on the other hand, a taste for ambient oddities and futuristic electro soundscapes, with a DIY aesthetic uniting the two. In the same way that the fascinating former capital of pre-Columbian civilization has colourful, historic baroque buildings standing side by side with some of the most avant-garde architecture in the world, the rest of the playlist is a sonic voyage, highlighting the city’s vibrant mix of influences. Though CDMX might suffer from its sulphurous reputation as a chaotic city marked by crime, corruption and social inequality, its music scene is striving to show a different side.
The most striking example of this is the aforementioned iconoclastic label and collective of DJs and producers, NAAFI, created by Mexican Jihad a.k.a. Alberto Bustamante and Fausto Bahía a.k.a. Tomás Davo, exactly 10 years ago. The NAAFI gang challenges a widespread concept in Mexico, that of ‘Malinchismo’, a preference for foreign rather than homegrown culture. Paul Marmota, Lao, and Tayhana amongst others, are ambitiously proving that it is possible to create electronic club music inspired by the Berlin, Caribbean, or South African scenes, whilst developing one’s own unique identity. This feat makes the Mexico City crew one of the most exciting names to look out for on the global club circuit.
Feeding off musical trends from all over the world without ever denying their own rich cultural heritage, the artists of the cosmopolitan Ciudad de México (though many of the artists on this playlist are from other Latin American countries) have created a melting pot that is at once both familiar and unparalleled.