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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Tijuana, like a number of other border towns in Mexico, has a reputation for drug violence and American tourists seeking cheap and sometimes seedy nightlife. Music lovers in the know have been heading to TJ, as it's known for years, to hit clubs just off a street called La Revolucion.

(Soundbite of song, "Have You Heard")

Ms. CECI BASTIDA (Singer): (Singing in Spanish)

SIMON: They go to hear singers, including Ceci Bastida. She grew up in Tijuana near the beach, but lives in Los Angeles now. Her new CD is called "Veo La Marea" or "I See the Tide." Ceci Bastida joins us from NPR West. Thanks so much for being with us.

Ms. BASTIDA: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: And good to have you here. You know, we're listening to "Have You Heard," the first track on your album. This is a club song about a drug war.

Ms. BASTIDA: Well, I wanted to talk a little bit about the drug war happening right now in Mexico. It's a bit of a criticism of our president's strategy, where he's trying to get rid of these leaders of cartels. And in my opinion, that is not the strategy to fix this problem. And I don't think that I have the ideal way of dealing with this, obviously, but I think it's important to focus on other things.

SIMON: With a club song.

Ms. BASTIDA: I wanted it to be a fun song, and it's a little strange, and people ask me this often, because it's such a serious topic. But in the end I'm also, you know, I'm a musician and I like to create songs that are danceable and that are powerful. And so I wanted to mix them in. And I think it ends up happening a lot with a lot of my other songs.

(Soundbite of song, "Have You Heard")

Ms. BASTIDA: (Singing in Spanish) Hambo, hambo, have you heard? Pop's gonna buy me a mockingbird...

SIMON: You've been singing for a living for some time now, haven't you?

Ms. BASTIDA: Since I was 15, yeah.

SIMON: You were in a band called Tijuana No, right?

Ms. BASTIDA: Right, right.

SIMON: In the early 1990s. And what do you remember from that time, being a teenager and performing?

Ms. BASTIDA: Back then, when I discovered that I could play in a band and that that I could hang out with these people that I had a lot of things in common with, the only thing that I wanted to do was play. I ended up playing with this band for a little over 12 years. But in the beginning it was just about having fun and then all of the sudden feeling like I could identify with all of these other people that I didn't know before.

SIMON: Where'd you play in Tijuana?

Ms. BASTIDA: We would play in all kinds of different places. I mean, there were bars. The weird part was that I was so young and so I wasn't able to hang out in these bars. So it was just play the show and leave.

SIMON: Any chance you brought your homework along and did it at the table of these clubs?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: All right. I thought I'd have to ask. Okay?

Ms. BASTIDA: I actually did because we had this - every Wednesday we were playing at this club (unintelligible) revolution (unintelligible) that wasn't like the nicest club. I'd bring my homework and work on it. You know, we'd do two sets and, you know, a few people dance and then they'd leave and have to go to high school.

SIMON: We're speaking with Ceci Bastida about her new CD, "Veo La Marea."

And why do you live in L.A. now?

Ms. BASTIDA: I was living in Mexico City before I moved here and I thought it was important for me to kind of move away from the world that I was living in in Mexico City and I wanted to try L.A. And L.A.'s also such a Latino city and it's so close to Tijuana that it's so easy for me to just, you know, go to my car and go down and visit my family and come back.

So, I don't know. Los Angeles feels just really, really familiar to me. It always has.

SIMON: You do a version of a song by the Go-Gos, which was a 1980, I think I can call it, an L.A. girl group that was a little bit pop and a little bit punk. Let's listen to your version of "This Town."

(Soundbite of song, "This Town")

Ms. BASTIDA: (Singing) We all know the chosen toys, of catty girls and pretty boys. Make up that face, jump in the race. Life's a kick in this town...

SIMON: So they're are the original lyrics. Now here's a part that you wrote in Spanish. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of song, "This Town")

Ms. BASTIDA: (Singing in Spanish) Life's a kick in this town...

SIMON: Now, what's the story you're adding here?

Ms. BASTIDA: This is such a Los Angeles story and I thought I only kind of focused on a particular side of L.A., and I wanted to add, you know, the Latino presence. I wanted to add this and talk a little bit about all of these people that are here who are doing a lot of these jobs that people don't seem to sometimes pay attention to. But we're all here and it's difficult to ignore.

SIMON: Well, I guess, and why would you want to ignore it? I mean, for example, you write about - sing about some of the Mexican nannies taking care of children. There's no important job in the life of a city than that.

Ms. BASTIDA: Yes, definitely.

SIMON: I want to talk a little bit about this song even more, 'cause you have the glamour and the grit of L.A. at the same time, plus maybe some political points. And also you have a lot going on musically. You've got a horn section. Let's listen to that.

(Soundbite of song, "This Town")

Ms. BASTIDA: (Singing in Spanish)

Unidentified Man: (Singing in Spanish)

SIMON: Horns have a kind of ska flavor to them.

Ms. BASTIDA: Yeah, it would seem like it. And in the end I wanted to also bring in a little bit of Mexican music, and this is Banda - music from the north of Mexico. And I love it. I think it's a very powerful music. And just adding it to this song, it just makes total sense.

(Soundbite of song, "This Town")

Ms. BASTIDA: (Singing) This town is our town, it is so glamorous, I bet you'd live here if you could and be one of us. This town is our town, it is so glamorous. I bet you'd live here if you could and be one of us...

SIMON: Let's listen to another track, "No Me Conoceras."

(Soundbite of song, "No Me Conoceras")

Ms. BASTIDA: (Singing in Spanish)

SIMON: Not a dance beat here. This is a song about the almost oldest mystery of all, I guess, isn't it?

Ms. BASTIDA: Yes. I wrote this song based on this novel that I really liked by Andrew Sean Greer. And I've read the story of a marriage which I fell in love with, and when I read this book, I really liked it and I thought it was a great story to tell, so that's what I wanted to do. And this story talks about a man that - a kid that grows with an old man's body and how he's becoming younger as the years go by and how he has the opportunity to fall in love with this woman three times in his life and the woman never recognizes him because he looks different.

So I just wanted to do something like that, which I've never done before.

SIMON: What are some of the differences in writing a personal love song as opposed to, let's say, a personal social or political song?

Ms. BASTIDA: For me, for whatever reason, the social-political ones come out a little bit more naturally. I really love beautiful love songs and when people are able to write them, I'm in awe of them. But for me, for some reason, it just goes more the social-political. And it's just, you know, it's part of my life and it's part of everybody's life. And, you know, we all are affected by these things and these wars, for example, that happen, and that I feel like, you know, it's important to talk about them.

SIMON: Ms. Bastida, so nice talking to you.

Ms. BASTIDA: So great talking to you, Scott. Thank you.

SIMON: Ceci Bastida. Her new CD is "Veo La Marea." And you can hear tracks from her new CD at our website, NPR.org. And to hear Ceci Bastida talk about some of her favorite recordings for NPR's Latin alternative podcast, check out Alt.Latino at NPR.org/AltLatino.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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