Native tongues

If you’ve seen Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto and think you know all there is to know about Mexican indigenous culture, please stop reading my blog. Above, Nahuatl classes are being offered in New York City as part of a project to spread endangered languages. Nahuatl is the most common indigenous language spoken in Mexico and comes in several different flavors of dialects. The Mexican government takes some care with developing awareness for the endangered languages of its indigenous tribes, though not much in the way of making sure the people survive. It remains and insult to tell someone they look “indian” or “indigenous” in Mexico. Ask somebody.

Here’s some Nahuatl podcasts and recordings courtesy of the Mexican government. Take a listen, here.

You can check out the government website in English, here. According to the site:

The CDI was established as an institution for obligatory consultation on indigenous affairs for the Federal Public Administration complex, as well as for evaluation of government programs and actions and training of federal, state and municipal public servants for improving care for the indigenous population.

Yeah, I guess so.

Here’s some music that’s inspired and funky by Nahuatl Soundsystem. Two Eps are available for download, here.

Call it Aztec dub cumbia. Or as the site says “

Aztec/Cumbia/Dub/Electronic/Reggae music collective originally from the roots of Tenochtitlan in Mexico, Afro-latin roots in Colombia, Andiean Mountains in Argentina and Downunder Australia.”

(Click on cover art to play)



Narco Corridos Uptown

Larry Hernandez at Club Luna in the Bronx last month.

This guy brought his narco corrido flavor to East Coast in late November. I heard this one, from a different group, on Saturday night filming some video footage in Washington Heights with Manny Wheels. It was for our updated digital media piece that I mentioned in a previous post.
We’re looking at narco corridos and their increased presence on the local Mexican off-the-radar dance circuit here in N.Y.

Not to give too much away right now, but the party ended before its expected 3:30 a.m. time, because some knuckleheads sprayed the front of the party location with bullets, hitting one kid in the leg. Someone got jumped and the response was to spray half a block with lead. No one else was hurt.
While a sonidero was playing (they rocked everything at that party from bachatta to ranchera to groupero to tropical), I saw a kid walk up to him and send some shouts to Sureño 13. I don’t know if it was him or his click who participated in the shooting. It really messed up a good night, though. I’m not trying to draw any real parallels between narco corridos and the shooting, although it’s possible gang bangers were at the party to hear some. The fact is that part of Uptown is really hot right now, hot in the sense of crime and gangs and drugs…the stuff of poor not-yet-fully-gentrified areas.

**UPDATE: I just got a call back from one of the security guards who works these types of events (allegedly, the Ecuadorian and Mexican public and private party circuit in N.Y. has a high demand for security).  He confirmed that a young guy was shot in the leg Saturday night, and said it stemmed from a beef between local Mexican gangs whose turf is divided along 155th St.

Los Traviesos were set tripping on a guy who rolls with Los Cholos. Neither had anything to do with the party (they like to wait outside for family, friends, rivals or girls I’m told. But maybe they were causing trouble because they couldn’t afford the $6 Modelos, or $5 waters that were being sold. Oops, I forgot to mention the ridiculous markup at this and many local events like this. I have to say I’m a little critical. Just because there’s a monopoly on these “authentic” spaces for Mexican regional music culture in N.Y., promoters don’t have to engañar la gente.

We were all set to check out the Grupo Illegales, which is an outfit that was supposed to play a song called “500 balazos”. Instead we got a hyper-authentic Norteño group called Conjunto Dinamico. Some cats from Chihuahua.
They opened their set with speedy Norteño jams before moving into the narco corridos, which really started to get the dance floor (gym floor!) packed.
Their youtube presence gives you an idea of how they get down:

Though they play a variety of music, they say the narco corridos are a must to please the crowd. Even though this is mostly music that tells stories of drug cartel life, it’s been a boon to the career of newer singers such as Larry Hernandez from Culiacan. One of his earliest albums was explicitly called “16 Narco Corridos”. He was recently in Neuva York. He played club Luna in the Bronx (check out a snippet, here). He puts some pretty revealing things on his Twitter feed:

While doing research for the piece I came across the always pretty grisly Blog del Narco.
If you look in the top, right corner of the site you’ll see a link to youtube video. It’s not a video of chopped-off heads like you’ll find in the blog’s forum, but a group music video. What I know is the future of narco corrido as envisioned in this track “C A R T E L E S U N I D O S”

It’s gangster music, but with accordions and the smell of a promoter who knows violence sells. (Download a mixtape, here)

Larry Hernandez photos via:

Wrestling the Maguey

A couple of wrestling matches, pulque and a gentle Sunday sun can make for a special cap-off to a weekend. Always down for an escape from the smog of the city,  we tripped up to the mountain in the south called Ajusco.

What led me on that journey was Niña Rap. I saw her the night before along with El Abogado and his Mano Armada Crew, and wanted to check them out again.  They were scheduled to perform at a mini music festival on the grounds of a pulqueria called La Frontera. It´s right across the Picacho-Ajusto freeway from the Gotcha compound.

Here´s  a slideshow of photos from the day I uploaded to Youtube.

Continue reading “Wrestling the Maguey”

Rhythm-Less the Dancer: A E and R Part II

TWERK IT: This is a clip I shot of a dance contest Scratch Produxiones held at the 3er Salón Internacional del Tuning y Car Audio in July. Reminder to always dance like no one else is in the room.

As mentioned before, Mexico City is car culture. The Monterrey rap/reggaeton group 330 Studio presided over this contest, with two women chosen: one blonde, one brunnette. That’s rapero Delincuente officiating, the rule was no booty grabbing.

I want to dedicate this post to those two women who let themselves get grinded on.

For me, it was only slightly shocking to see the gang-grinding at the end of each session, and I realized this same thing must be happening at car shows in the U.S. It’s not just a machismo thing.
I think the prize was a towel, a t-shirt and a CD.