Though Monterrey, Mexico is sometimes referred to as the Pittsburg of Latin America, the music of the city is far removed from the downtrodden and dingy image that nickname conjures. In fact, a new breed of musicians in Monterrey are working emphatically to make something new and exciting by challenging cultural norms, reveling in the experimental, and simply enjoying life in their industrial city.
Located just three hours south of the United States border, Monterrey is a glorious jumble of Mexican and American culture: Spanish and English mingle in public places, Targets compete with local mercaditos, and you can buy your enchiladas from Applebees or a neighborhood taquería. This cross-cultural atmosphere puts the youth of Monterrey in an interesting musical position; as kids they gobbled up everything from the Butthole Surfers, Ace of Bass, and My Bloody Valentine to the rhythms of traditional norteño music. Such diverse musical influences mixed with the colorful palate of their homeland and an infectious energy have allowed the young people of Monterrey to create one of the most diverse, inspiring music scenes in the world.
Though Monterrey is a city riddled with poverty and warfare between drug cartels, the local bands create their own, optimistic reality – eschewing the rampant capitalism that has caused the intense gaps between social classes and embracing acid and marijuana in lieu of the cocaine and heroin trafficked by the city’s gangs. But, creating new, exciting music in an area with so many problems and difficult social issues is no easy feat.
The thriving scene’s ability to overcome these harsh realities can be accredited to the raw, infectious energy that the kids of Monterrey exude. As they constantly collaborate, inventing new projects and styles, the youth are churning out a steady stream of new material, thanks to their intense do-it-yourself attitudes. Their unique form of creation reinforces the idea that kids can do everything they want musically without lots of money, access to high-tech studios, or record deals. Though it may mean recording straight to a boombox, releasing tracks on cassette or online, and relying on e-mail and MySpace for PR, the haphazard spontaneity of it all adds that much more to the movement’s refreshing lack of pretension. This self-reliance allows bands a certain playfulness and passion that can shine through even the murkiest of sound quality.
The result of these factors is a highly supportive scene that is brimming with originality and lust for music and life. And with local bands like Los Llamarada, Quiero Club, and XYX beginning to see international distribution, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches on to what is happening in Monterrey.
In the coming days, I will be sharing some of the amazing bands that I discovered during my stay in Monterrey earlier this summer along with enough MP3s to saturate your iPod with New Weird Mexico.
Photo Credit: La Pola