The music Los Macuanos creates is known as ruidosón, which roughly translates as noise-folk, electronic music that mixes dance beats with sounds evoking Mexican culture. In Tijuana in 2009 that culture was pretty dark.
"At the time I didn't think to make political music, or to make, like, socially relevant music, I was just like translating my experience to music and it turned out it sounded like Mexico, it sounded like Tijuana but with these dark undertones," says band member Moises Lopez.
Electronica may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of political music. But Tijuana's youth culture revolves around clubs where dance music fuels a late-night party scene. That was almost a drug war casualty too.
At the height of the crisis in 2008 and 2009, just going out at night was an act of defiance.
Now that the violence has faded in Tijuana, Moises Horta says, the dance floors are packed again. "You're dancing to these political samples, very violent rhythms, you're partying but you're getting tripped out about the whole situation, you're partying in the apocalypse. It's dance floor politics."
Reuben Torres says Los Macuanos are musicians, not activists. But they're speaking up, and they hope Mexico is listening. "It's just pop music. I don't think we're that much of a threat to the status quo or anything like that. But I just think there's some part of you that says, maybe somebody's going to change something about the way that they think."
Ruben Torres, Moisés Lopez and Moisés Horta use computers and synthesizers to perform their distinctive sound (Photo Credit: Jesus Vasquez)
Ruben Torres, Moisés Lopez and Moisés Horta use computers and synthesizers to perform their distinctive sound (Photo: Jesus Vasquez)