August 12, 2005

MACUILXOCHITL: Five Flower”, the Aztec god of music and dance

Nortec Collective travels north of the border

By Francisco Ciriza

While Tijuana is and has been both famous and infamous for a multitude of reasons, music has long been one of the city’s most redeemable exports. Ever since Herb Alpert sold his brand of Mexican brass horn allure to hungry pop fans in the sixties, Tijuana has continually produced artists whose music lands well outside the edge of America’s popular music zone and no better exemplified by Nortec Collective whose music has been so influential it has appeared in commercials for Volvo, Dell, Fidelity Mutual, Edwin Jeans (w/Brad Pitt) in Japan, Nissan, among others.

In the seventies, Carlos Santana and company wowed crowds with his blooming guitar wizardry and brought cool Latin rhythms to the ears of younger rock music fans. In the eighties, Tijuana’s punk rock scene easily outshined San Diego’s with bands like Solución Mortál and later Tijuana No! each seemed to have real reason to scream and rebel against the establishment.

Next was the firecracker charm of vocalist/accordionist Julieta Venegas who croons her moody and insightful lyrics over her mostly acoustic-based melodic compositions. Her career seems to resemble and ever-so-slowly rolling snowball which has continued to gain size and momentum. The spunky former lead vocalist of Tijuana No! has sold a ton of her first two CD’s and has joined the alternative Latin genre’s elite artists atop the contemporary Latin music mountain.

Enter Nortec Collective. The aptly named group of artists consists of five independent musicians who admittedly rarely rehearse together but whose collaborations on their CD’s have basically created its own genre within the alternative Latin scene, Nortec - a fusion of Norteño (“from the North”) and Techno, and thus documenting the collision between the style and culture of electronica and traditional Mexican music.

The Nortec Collective is: Fussible (Pepe Mogt), Bostich (Ramón Amezcua), Panóptica (Roberto Mendoza), Clorofila (Jorge Verdín) and Hiperboreal (PG Beas) who view Tijuana not only as their home, but as a border metropolis of almost two million people, a major hub of global pop culture on par with Tokyo, New York, LA, and London.

Most recently, just one day after its March 26th release, the group’s much-anticipated second record, Tijuana Sessions Vol. 3 (Nacional 2005) rocketed to the top of iTunes’ Latin Albums Chart, beating Out such multi-platinum acts as Shakira and Juanes, both from Colombia, as well as fellow Mexican mega-star, Thalia.

All indications reveal Collective’s job is to make music that reflects the cultures, cash, languages, styles, laborers, and sounds (lots and lots of sounds) all migrate into each other without the proper documents, clashing and connecting and merging and marrying, like few other spots on the planet.

“We started this whole thing as an experiment back in 1998 or 1999,” said Roberto Mendoza recently via cell phone from Tijuana. “Initially, after the first record, we were surprised by the attention and super-positive response. While there is a lot of pressure to again produce similar results, we are much more calm and sure of our abilities and our music. We have much more faith in our process of creativity,” Mendoza added.

“We rarely are in the same place at the same time. But we periodically get together to has it out. We listen to each others demos and then start mixing things together. We again go our separate ways, then return. It’s a very unusual and unique way of making music as one unit, “ said Mendoza

Tijuana Sessions Vol. 3’s fifteen tracks are highly dance friendly and are a musical reflection of the northern hemisphere’s most accessed border region. Tangible is the city’s touristy, narco-traffic infested, multicultural glory along with the city’s strikingly dynamic demographic make-up are on parade. Dance along with the upturned noses of the hip, fashion conscious but gaudy elite, roll with the ever-present dusty rumbling rural banda contingent and toast the retro sounds of dark, brandy-soaked barrooms and lively bullrings of scratched, smudged, and dented brass horns. The entire sonic collage comes wrapped in trendsetting drum loops, smooth percussion, high-level instrumental skills, and expertly manipulated vintage sound samples.

Nortec Collective will be launching a U.S. tour in support of their new album, which will eventually take the group to Europe and Latin America. The group performs in San Diego tonight at the House of Blues, 1055 5th Avenue. Doors opening at 8 p.m. and the show starting at 9 p.m.

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