Mexico City: Mujer, amante del punk y delirio

no-hay-que-olvidar-a-las-mujeres-del-punk-britanico-que-le-abrieron-paso-a-riot-grrrl-body-image-1429206252

Alistándonos para salir de fiesta, tomando mezcal, The Cramps resonando por todo el depa. A dies minutos para la media noche, la ciudad nos apresura, le damos fondo a nuestras bebidas mágicas y vamos rumbo a alcanzar el último metro que nos llevará a las pistas ultravioletas infundidas de punk.

Ser jóven y amante del punk y todos sus derivados, de querer y poder bailar sin importarte en lo minimo quien o que te rodea — hombre, muxer, chavx, fresa, goth y todo lo que cabe en medio: bailamos. Entrega completa al fuzz de la guitarra y hondura del bajo, a la desesperación de las batacas y el delirio colectivo de cuerpos aplastando, empujando, moviéndose.

Ser mujer, amante del punk y delirio, y vivir en el DF. Las desveladas, los slams, lxs amigxs nuevos y las pistas de baile, innumerables como las botellas vacías de jumex y tequila. Memorias derramadas y esfumadas en calles sin nombre. Nada se compara a los slams de surf y garage punk de mis favoritas bandas rápidas frenéticas y chilangas. A los círculos de chavos banda chocándose enérgicamente en el corazón de Iztapalapa. A bailar rodeada de gente que dicta su movimiento colectivo a una música subversiva y alucinante.

Fui chavita, amante de punk por primera vez en la secundaria. Los CDs de The Clash de mi hermana y mi primer novio, que me dio la credibilidad necesaria para asistir a tokines en el barrio de Los Ángeles, me iniciaron en un viaje irreversible.

Avanzamos ocho años, surgiendo del metro Niños Heroes, cruzando Jardin Pushkin y reviviendo mi amor por el delirio musicalizado en la pista del MultiForo Alicia. Al llegar, agotó mi energía bailando al compas del caos. Y cuando los efectos de mi última chela se desvanece de mi cuerpo, bailo totalmente sobria, alentada por una energía inagotable, espíritu agitándose, ojos entrecerrados, cuerpo y alma libre.

Mandar a un chavo dos veces mi tamaño volando a través del slam. Pierdo los aretes, rompo mi reloj, me tumban me revuelco me levantan del suelo, delineador y pelo hecho desmadre.

Amante del caos, del desmadre, bailar, perder y encontrarme en el centro de la pista de baile, soltarlo todo.

El punk en la ciudad de México me hace mujer libre, loca, y delirante. La mujer combativa que siempre he sido.

Escribiendo Los Ángeles: La Música

Ella pisa las estrellas 
todo te lo da y pronto te lo quita 
por los callejones donde nada brilla 
quedan los recuerdos de la Reina..

 La Santa Cecilia, fragmento de la canción “Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Ángeles” 

En este blog he dedicado mucha prosa y poesía a la Ciudad de México. Aquella es mi musa más grande, fuente inagotable de inspiración para esta viajera. Pero gran parte de lo que me inspira de ella lo asocio a mi experiencia como una mujer y estudiante transfronterista.

To write and understand myself wholly, we must consider all of my experiences relative to borders, and to the ways in which I travel, transcend, inhabit and challenge them.

Before Mexico City there was Santa Cruz, before Santa Cruz Los Angeles, before Los Angeles there was Durango, before Durango…Between all this coming and going, Los Angeles remains one of my more enduring homes. This is the city my parents’ choose to migrate to in the 70s and sow roots, echar raíces, while nurturing a yearning always to return down roads trekked across hills and deserts, rivers and mountains.

Because although I am always leaving, aunque siempre me esté yendo, siempre regreso. Regreso cuando la nostalgia se aproxima en invierno y extraño los apapachos de mi mamá, su olor su cocinar los tamales y el ponche que prepara y escuchar a mi padre tocar el piano y perderme en su colección de records. Recuerdo la letra de una canción de Facundo Cabral, Me gusta andar pero no sigo el camino pues lo seguro ya no tiene misterio, me gusta ir con el verano muy lejos pero volver donde mi madre en invierno…

Porque cuando regresamos al nido, when we return to our earliest home, we receive new opportunities to discern the smallest and most astounding developments, the newness of what we once considered mundane and ordinary, and the beauty and happiness of our most cherished memories.

My piece of Los Angeles is Boyle Heights – un pequeño pedazo de Los Angeles hacia el oriente en donde encontramos mucha gente mexicana, saldavoreña, latinoamericana y todxs quienes se encuentran en medio. This is a community of resiliency where the memory of our pueblos remains preserved in our food, in the aromatic poetry of pan dulce that emanates from bakeries on bright and radiant barrio mornings, in our abrazos and in our music.

The músicxs y música that melodize and fill my community come in diverse melodic and rythmic forms, desde el mariachi al conjunto, del son jarocho al rock  y punk en espanglish. However, the bastions of our musical creative production remain the people who, in their migration and journey through las américas, brought with them their love and necessity. For all of us, music becomes a tool and symbol of personal and collective survival:

© Monica Almeida
Mariachi Plaza © Monica Almeida

Of all ages, de todos los tamaños: trabajando en un oficio ya antiguo, a veces o muchas veces menos preciados, tocando para nosotros los corridos, los sones, los huapangos..siempre en restaurantes coloridos y deliciosos.  The strumming of their guitarras, the plucking of the strings, the loitering, waiting, watching: esperando las oportunidades que a veces nunca llegan. 

 

© Nidia Bautista
© Nidia Bautista

En Los Ángeles, ciudad a veces cruel, es en donde cada vez más los músicos mexicanos y latinoamericanos quedan relegados a la plaza de mariachi y a aveces, al hambre. Los procuramos cuando nuestra nostalgia y soledad lo requiere. Theirs are faces I want to preserve in my heart’s memory forever; las manos envejecidas, mentes lúcidas, miradas agobiadas, melodías dulces.

Cumbia, transnationally…

Proyecto Sonidero, Livia Radwanski

The transnational soundscapes of cumbia – born in Latin American as testimony of exploitation, perseverance, and intersection during the african slave trade in Colombia and Panama – reverberates through the dance halls of Mexico City and Los Angeles, where people of many languages vibe and dance to music fused together by delicious melodic and rhythmic arrangements.

To dance and play cumbia in any of these two cities is to participate in a translocal musical and corporal dialogue of sorts – mingled among the crowd there are folks who have known cumbia for generations, a rhythm which seems to have informed their corporal movement since time immemorial.

At first it is difficult to write about cumbia because it is difficult to transmit with words the seductive beats and melodic arrangements that entrance souls and bodies into movement, as if palabras are unfit to capture the essence of the music and context in which I’ve experienced this Latin American and always innovative sound. The rhythms, varieties and sensations inspired are difficult to communicate because I approach cumbia, like I approach everything else – transnationally.

My first introduction to cumbia was at a young age at family parties in Los Angeles, Califas – the tex-mex and cumbias norteñas of Selena Quintanilla and Los Relámpagos del Norte would blast from stereos and would inspire a humble dance crowd, where tios and tias would twirl and side step to the flirtatious beats of Suavecito. As child of Duranguense, Sonoran, and Jalisciense predecessors, this was my first encounter with one of more than twelve cumbia varieties.

Through countless hours of thrifting for cumbia sounds, it is hard to miss that many producers make note of its transnational nature; in the introduction to the Danza de Los Simpsons by the Chicha Libre – a cumbia chicha revival band born out of Brooklyn, NY – dice: “se baila así en Colombia, Chile, México, Argentina, Panama y también se baila así, en Peru” – It is danced all over Latin America, and increasingly, all over the world.

My second and most intensive primer on cumbia was in one of the most creatively resplendent and musically innovative cumbia capitals of the world, la Ciudad de México. Mexico City is home to the quintessentially chilango cumbia rhythms of sonidera culture, where cumbia meets public space. Strolling through el Centro Histórico, downtown Mexico City, on a Sunday afternoon you could find dozens of couples of all ages twirling and meneando to the classic guaracha tunes by the dozens in Parque Alameda. And an overview of any YouTube video and many-a-chilango testimonies illustrate the mythical cumbia gatherings in Tepito, a barrio famous for its boxers, Santa Muerte, and cumbia sonidera. But Mexico City is also an incubator of psychedelic cumbias and kumbia queers.

It is in this great city that I was introduced to chicha, a cumbia melodic masterpiece born in the Peruvian Amazon in the 60s, via the quintessentially chilango band, Sonido Gallo Negro. Chicha was born in Peru from Columbian cumbian influences, Andean melodies and Cuban guajiras but with a psychedelic injection. Bastioned by bands like Los Mirlos and Los Destellos, chicha quickly spread to Lima and congealed with the musical likeliness of rock, Andean folklore and Peruvian creole music – and it was radically popular in Peru. With time many of these bands become relegated to the nostalgia of dancers of decades past but recently this 9-piece, instrumental band from east Mexico City took on a project to recuperate the chicha sound but with a chilango flair.

In many ways, dancing to cumbia psicodélica in Mexico City is a ritualistic and spiritual experience; the sweat of a venue filled with the spirits of cumbia psicodélica of the past and the sensual and licentious energies emanating from bodies persuaded by the timbales, congas, güiro and electric convocation of Sonido Gallo Negro in Multiforo Alicia is one of my most cherished and hazed memories.

I recently attended a cumbia gathering in La Cita, a bar once frequented by sombrero wearing and tecate sipping dones in Los Angeles, where I danced to the music of La Chamba Chicha – a resident Los Angeles band – along with a few cumbia loving friends. To the rhythm of sonideras and chichas I was twirled by a querida amiga, where through giggles and smiles we innocently bumped into our neighbors, perhaps over extending our spins and footwork when we heard Guaracha Sabrosona come on.

But within this transnational soundscape in which cumbia rules, there is no room for timidity. La cumbia se baile, y se baila sabroso.

Mexico City: Música y desobediencia

LSC in Querétaro 246 in 2011
La Santa Cecilia in Mexico City, 2011

One of my earliest and haziest memories of night life hedonism in Mexico City is of an esoteric inspired cumbia and copal smoke infused dance floor of Multiforo Alicia, a cultural and artistic space in Colonia Roma. That night of ritual literally drenched me in the sweat of a venue filled with the spirits of cumbia psicodélica of the past and the sensual and licentious energies emanating from bodies persuaded by the timbales, congas, güiro and electric convocation of Sonido Gallo Negro, a 9-piece, instrumental band from east Mexico City.

That early experience served to inspire my already burgeoning hunger for live music and bands thriving off the energy of  Mexico City’s daily existence. I’ve been able to decipher a vast amount of urban space and venue gig line-ups in order to find good music, buena onda.  Lucky for me, Mexico City is overflowing with incredible bands, en los unders, con los chavos banda, punks, goths y fresas (because of their shared affinity for electronica, you can find these last two in bars all around El Centro – a trip, lo sé).

Alongside fellow chilangx denizens, I’ve danced to the music of La Santa Cecilia in Querétaro 246. I’ve caught the last midnight metro from estación Miguel Angel de Quevedo to catch the last and best bands play at gigs in el Alicia a dozen times over. And I’ve trekked through dozens of metro routes and dished out pesos for the peseros to take me to the chavos banda ska shows down in Iztapalapa and to back patio tocadas up by Metro Refineria. It has become a quest of sorts, an attempt to witness not only the diverse interpretations and tributes of bands born out of Mexico City, inspired by the creative intensity of the city streets they’ve known indelibly, but also the national and international bands that have been summoned by the great city.

With time and a good number of garage punk shows, I grew to love a particular music venue that wasn’t solely a music venue but also an autonomous space for political organizing and a cultural incubator for youth resistance.  Multiforo Alicia has seen the likes of Manu Chao and Los Auténticos Decadentes, among other Latin American greats, and regularly hosts the best garage punk, surf, and local bands, that are among my personal favorites.

In Mexico City, we are unfortunately continually reminded of the purpose of bridging culture and politics within an autonomous space dedicated to the coexistence of independent bands and urban youth. Since the inauguration of both Enrique Peña Nieto as president of Mexico and Miguel Angel Mancera as mayor of Mexico City in December 2012, social protest has been responded with aggressive police confrontation, unseen in years in the capital. Under new federal and district leadership there have been a high number of arbitrary arrests of youth protesters that have resulted in outrageous and unfounded charges.

On October 2, 2013, during the most recent commemoration protest of the Tlatelolco student massacre ordered by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional of 1968, 19 protestors were detained, among them the guitarist and vocalist of Telekrimen and The Cavernarios , two resident bands of el Alicia. For the last six months Danny Lobo has been detained at the Reclusorio Norte prison, under the bogus charges of offenses against public peace en masse and property damage, when in reality he was passing out flyers for what would have been an upcoming show.  After months of organizing, the artistic and political community of the city has yet to secure his release.

In many ways, el Alicia is an epitome of the power of resistance through music in Mexico City.  Because while we all search for beats and rhythms that inspire the organic creation of mosh pits and elaborate cumbia footwork, we also require music that inspires us to transcend time and space, to literally move us to other times, countries, dance floors long gone, and to help root us in all too real political, cultural and social realities.

Music in Mexico City represents and means many things to me but these all come in melodious lessons on life and resistance.

Living beats

Today I’m in the mood for some jazz, Duke Ellington, Monk, Nina Simone and café con leche.

 Reading about jazz musicians of the past and on the essence of jazz immortalized in the writing of James Baldwin (among others), I have the notion that this music is about sentiments and feelings buried deep inside that only jazz notes can communicate. It is a product of genius and tragedy.

I find so much beauty in and appreciate people who make music, people who are music, and people who live life as beats and melodies.  Some people I’ve met are as troubled and tragic as Thelonious Monk but just as brilliant.  In the past it has troubled me to think people can think and desire so differently than me, that their sense of purpose and creation is so different than my own.  But like everyone, they make internal compromises in order to get by – metaphysically, philosophically, spiritually.

In order to survive – that is, to live the lives of their choosing, as drummers, as musicians, as challengers, artists, and performers – they come to a sort of agreement with themselves in order to turn and confront the world as they are, as they have chosen to be, intending to occupy as much space in the world, as they are. Sometimes the world decides you’re crazy or dangerous or stupid and does away with you.

But sometimes because you create a jazz album, a book or writing – conversation and enlightenment in all its forms – you become impossible to destroy.  You transcend your fear of death, of destruction and termination – the fear of yourself, your vulnerability and temporality – through your power to create and inspire. Perhaps that is one outstanding reason I adore music.

It is a remnant of that amazing power of creation, a testament of sorts. Music from a time far gone, from a present very proximate and dynamic, and of a reassurance that this creative force that slumbers in many people, is very capable of influencing wonderful interpretations to inspire us all.

As with music, so it is with dancing, and with words, and with ideas, and with smiles, and with love.