Mexican rock

Mexican rock

Mexican rock, often referred to in Mexico as "Rock nacional" ("national rock"), is rock music created by Mexican groups and soloists.

Originating in the 1950s with covers of standards by Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and The Everly Brothers, among others, bands such as Los Rebeldes del Rock, Los Locos del Ritmo, Los Crazy Boys and Javier Bátiz soon arose with original compositions, often in English. In the southwest U.S. Spanish guitar rhythms and Mexican musical influences may have inspired some of the music of Roy Orbison and later, Herb Alpert, who are not Latinos or Mexicans. Initially, the public exhibited little interest in them, because of media attention paid to "La Ola Inglesa" (British Invasion).

However, after the substantial success of Mexican-American guitarist Santana in the United States in the late 1960s, a large number of bands sprung up, especially in Mexico City. Most of these bands sung in both Spanish and, with foreign commercial exposure in mind, English. Mexican and "Chicano" rock has crossed into other Hispanic groups like Jose Feliciano and Lourdes Rodriguez of Puerto Rican descent.

Important bands of this period were Enigma, Kaleidoscopio, El Tarro de Mostaza, El Ritual, Peace and Love, Ciruela, The Spiders, Love (El Amor), Three Souls in My Mind, Toncho Pilatos, Los Dug Dug's, El Epilogo, La Semilla del Amor, Love Army, Tinta Blanca, La Revolucion de Emiliano Zapata, La Tribu, 39.4, La Division del Norte, Bandido, Venedades and Los Angeles Negros.

Early years

Rock activity at this time in Mexico took place in either Mexico City and the nearby area or in northern cities such as Mexicali, Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo, and Ciudad Juarez, and Tijuana, whose proximity to the United States resulted in more exposure to American sounds.

Rock, as elsewhere, became tied with the youth revolt of the 1960s. Many Mexican rock stars became involved in the counterculture movement. The three-day Festival Rock y Ruedas de Avándaro, held in 1971, was organized in the valley of Avándaro near the city of Toluca, a town neighboring Mexico City, and became known as "The Mexican Woodstock".

In that rock festival, nudity, open sex, drug use, profanity/ obscenity, and the presence of the American flag so scandalized conservative Mexican society that the government imposed cultural curbs in Mexican pop music on a temporary basis. The festival, intended to emulate Woodtock and Altamont, was never expected to attract the masses it did, and the government had to evacuate stranded attendees en masse at the end of the festival.

During the President Luis Echeverría's administration, the Mexican government tried to win back the country's legitimacy through populist, leftist-oriented programmes. Most things that could possibly be connected to the counterculture or student protests was sidelined on public airwaves by the powers that be, who feared a repeat of the student protests of 1968, the very same event which the new government denounced. But, most Mexican rock bands sang and criticized the administration in general and, more specifically, corruption, poverty and persistent social inequalities taken place through Mexican history.

Few bands survived the curbs; though the ones that did, like Three Souls in My Mind (later El Tri), remained popular due in part to their adoption of Spanish for their lyrics, and also as a result of a dedicated following. As the hippie trend waned c. 1973, many Mexican bands inclined themselves to progressive rock and hard rock.During the seventies there was a surge of may new bands but there was very little support from the music industry towards producing original rock music,and the bands suffered from it and had to limit themselves to perform in hoyos fonqui.Representatives of this period were:Perro Fantastico,Mara,Vox Populi,Stray Cat,Rock Moviloy and many more.Perro Fantastico a band from the east of Mexico City(ciudad nezahualcoyotl) created rock music singing in Spanish and English,formed by the brothers Jose Luis and Jaime Francisco Gonzalez(guitar and bass) with Guillermo Avalos(drums) and Arturo Fajardo(rythum guitar) and played among the other bands in places like:Salon Chicago,Macumba,el Herradero and other places until the band dismembered around 1978.During the seventies bands also performed in high schools,universities and other places.Many others followed or continued during the eighties.

In the 1990s and 2000s, a number of performers have attained internationally renown, including pop-rock acts such as Gloria Trevi,Ana Sidel, Café Tacuba, Caifanes (now Jaguares), Julieta Venegas, ska band Maldita Vecindad y Los Hijos del Quinto Patio and Maná. Control Machete, Delasónica, 5ta Madre and Molotov explore rap/rock fusion, with lyrics containing social commentary mixed with urban vulgarity.

Música Rupestre Scene

Since the late 1960s, there existed poets that sang with acoustic guitars and played in the then prosperous Café cantante scene. These forums showcased the folkloric music that came from South America, specially from Peru and Chile. Performers like Victor Jara, Violeta Parra, Inti Illimani, Los Folkloristas and local Oscar Chavez among many others denounced in their songs the atrocities of the military juntas, all of which experimented even worse repression than those in Mexico during the Tlatelolco incident, that governed most of the countries from Nicaragua to Tierra del Fuego, and curiously the cafes cantantes thrived, as long as nothing was overtly criticial of the Mexican government in general.

The scene eclipsed by the early 1980s, but several musicians like Rockdrigo, sometimes nicknamed "the Mexican Bob Dylan" developed an own Mexican folk style, which came to be known as 'Música Rupestre'. Later on they were dubbed 'Los Urbanos', because although they played acoustic guitars, the themes of their lyrics revealed the adverse conditions the working class had to face in the big cities, and blues forms were then incorporated in their compositions. When El Tri made an electric rendition of Rockdrigo 's 'Metro Balderas' the fusion of rock and música rupestre was consummated.

Many others had continued to surface, but Rockdrigo's untimely death during the earthquake of 1985 in Mexico City skyrocketed his already legendary status, and thus he is considered the most influential exponent of both rock urbano and música rupestre.


Starting in the 90's, Monterrey, Nuevo León has witnessed the birth of several bands that have become internationally acclaimed. Their genres vary considerably. Bands include Plastilina Mosh, Control Machete, Kinky, El Gran Silencio, Jumbo, Panda, Genitallica, Heavy Metal Band "IRA". The song "Los Oxidados" by Plastilina Mosh opens the 2005 movie ``Mr. & Mrs. Smith++. Kinky performed at the 2004 edition of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California, along with Radiohead, The Cure and The Killers. Monterrey has recently earned the nickname "Monterrock", and is considered the musical capital of Mexico's actual rock scene [cita requerida] . A few of the most popular live music venues in Monterrey include Arena Monterrey, Auditorio Coca-Cola, Cafe Iguana, Ibex Rockbar, McMullen's and Uma Bar, all located in the Barrio Antiguo section of the city.

Metal Scene

Since the 1960s hard rock had been assimilated by several groups, like the aforementioned Los Dug Dug's and El Ritual, and later by others like Náhuatl, Nuevo México and Bloody Rock. During the following decade it continued to exist in forms of heavy blues, which was an authentic underground movement, which peaked in the late 1970s when the Hoyos Funky came to notoriety around 1977.

Groups like Ramses and La Cruz are veterans of the era and were some of the first to be labeled as "heavy metal", but then again it was not until the 1990s that bands like Transmetal, Next and Semefo contributed to the scene with original approaches, when the most radical forms of the genre like death metal and grindcore were fully digested.

The early bands were followed by myriads of other groups, that exist in an evergrowing underground movement of sports arenas weekend concerts all over the Country.

Melting Pot: Chopo Bazaar

In 1980 an unprecedented event took place: The National University of Mexico UNAM, through one of its cultural departments, invited the public in general to bring over their L.P. records and participate in trading them with other attendants. The gathering place was The Museo Universitario del Chopo, (popularly known as "Museo del Chopo") located in the heart of Mexico City, every Saturday morning.

For the first time since Avándaro rock musicians and record collectors had the opportunity to meet each other and exchange records, which created a collective conscience about rock and subculture in general that nevertheless had existed but didn't have a "proper" site to develop. In the beginning the trading took place inside the facilities of the museum, but by the end of the year it couldn't contain an evergrowing crowd interested in finding records that were otherwise impossible to get from the established outlets, and the trading had become selling in many cases, where commerce sharks took advantage of the incipient new market for rock "rarities".

So the gathering extended to the street right in front of the museum, and several stands were erected, transforming all the affair in a tianguis, a kind of street bazaar. Despite this the record trading was still the main attraction, but other problems emerged. The resident neighbors of the museum saw how their calm Saturday morning became disturbed by a menacing motley crowd, that now included punks, new wavers, hippies, rastafaris, and every other extravagant people that found could express themselves freely at the weekly gathering, and as said before, met others with the same likings and inclinations, but with eventual sneaking inside the surrounding buildings to smoke a joint, or worse.

Soon the government tried to ban the tianguis, and as a matter of fact, the museum had already closed its doors to the whole event, stating that it or the National University "had nothing to do with the current state of affairs". They had created a monster, and it had grown so out of hand, that now it was on its own, and was being put down, like in the old days. But now the participants knew each other well, and the "heads" of the tianguis organized themselves, and as a group presented a proposition to the local government dependency, offering reliable and uncompromising security, and most important, a permanent fee.

However, the officials were reluctant, and between 1982 and 1989 the "Chopo"(as it was now known) changed locations no less than six times, from parks to parking lots to faculty gardens, always because of pressure from officials. And against all odds, it was still growing.

Finally, since 1990 it has been taking place on a street behind the Buenavista Train Station, not three blocks away from the original 'Museo del Chopo' location. From the original one hundred people that began attending in 1980, it is estimated that more than ten thousand people visit the tianguis every week. From the original record trading, it now displays all kinds of clothing, posters, movies, handicrafts, magazines, books, instruments, and all paraphaernalia related to the subculture, and rock in general.

There have been interesting social studies about the Tianguis Cultural del Chopo(the official name), and people from around the world have marveled at display of such intense variety of subculture, when they have had the opportunity to watch it first hand. The Chopo has been a launching platform for many artists of different disciplines (not only rock music) to the world.

The Middle Eighties

Mexican Rock immediately fell prey to the British Invasion of the early 1980s. Spanish rock bands like "Hombres G", "Mecano", "Radio Futura" and "La Unión" took over the spotlight. Mexico responded with bands like "Botellita de Jeréz", and "El Tri". Mexican Pop bands like "Timbiriche", "Pandora", and "Flans" as well as Spanish pop bands like "Olé-Olé" dominated the airwaves.

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