'Global Village' Goes To Mexico: 4 Songs That Fuse Style And Tradition KPFK's Betto Arcos joins NPR's Arun Rath to share a genre-bending mix of songs from Mexico. Dive into a frenetic blend of cumbia, funk, jazz, flamenco, norteño and more.
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'Global Village' Goes To Mexico: 4 Songs That Fuse Style And Tradition

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'Global Village' Goes To Mexico: 4 Songs That Fuse Style And Tradition

'Global Village' Goes To Mexico: 4 Songs That Fuse Style And Tradition

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  • Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

And we're joined once again by Betto Arcos - world-music DJ, L.A. man about town, intrepid traveler. He always brings us the most awesome music - and this time, all from Mexico, right Betto?

BETTO ARCOS: That's right. I wanted to bring some attention to the wealth and the breadth of Mexican music across the country because there are areas that, unfortunately, we hear about some bad news about what's happening in Mexico. But sometimes people don't see the good side and I wanted to bring attention to some regions of Mexico through the music of these groups that we're going to feature today.

RATH: So before we learn about our first artist, let's listen to a little bit of his music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANTENAS AL PORVENIR")

DAVID AGUILAR: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: Betto, who is this guy?

ARCOS: His name is David Aguilar. He's from the Northwestern state of Sinaloa. And he is, in my opinion, one of the most gifted, talented singer-songwriters right now in Mexico. He's maybe about 30 years old, but he knows how to craft, how to create a beautiful song and a melody. I just think he's one of the great artists right now happening.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANTENAS AL PORVENIR")

AGUILAR: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: So beautiful and bright. What's he singing about?

ARCOS: This is a song that's called "Antenas Al Porvenir," which means something like an antenna to the future, meaning the world may be falling apart. We feel like sometimes there's all this bad news going around in Mexico, in the Middle East, Africa, but we have to be positive. And he's basically saying look, there's a bright future coming up. It's going to be good.

RATH: And talking about trouble, he's in a place - he's in Sinaloa, that's associated with a lot of violence.

ARCOS: That's right. That's right. And here is someone that despite all of that says hey, we actually have something really exciting here.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANTENAS AL PORVENIR")

AGUILAR: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: Once again that's the music of David Aguilar. The song is called "Antenas Al" - say it for me, Betto.

ARCOS: "Antenas Al Porvenir."

RATH: Betto, who's next?

ARCOS: The next band is this group from my hometown of Xalapa, Veracruz, in the Gulf Coast of Mexico - the capital of the state of Veracruz. And they're called Los Aguas Aguas.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL SOL")

LOS AGUAS AGUAS: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: Pretty funky stuff there.

ARCOS: Yeah, this is a band that initially started playing roots music, Son Jarocho, fromVeracruz. And pretty soon within a couple of years, they started blending in funk and especially reggae music.

RATH: Yeah.

ARCOS: And so what you hear really is this kind of beautiful mix, this kind of confluence of musics. In particular, this song that's called "El Sol," or "The Sun," talks about this environment that they've been living in Xalapa in Veracruz - this place that's been unfortunately also plagued by violence. But the singer's basically saying there's all this stuff going on, but let's be positive and let's confront this and say we have to keep on living.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EL SOL")

LOS AGUAS AGUAS: (Singing in Spanish).

ARCOS: This is a band that is very, very much representative of what's happening in the music in Veracruz that maybe started playing just kind of party songs, but now they're saying we have to say something about what's happening.

RATH: Again, that's music from Los Aguas Aguas. The song is called "El Sol." My guest is Betto Arcos, world-music DJ with KPFK here in Los Angeles. Betto, more.

ARCOS: Let's take a listen into this new recording by one of my all-time favorite bands. It's called Pasatono Orquesta and their new record is called "Maroma." And let's listen to this kind of overture into the world of the Maroma or circus.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OBERTURA MAROMA")

RATH: Betto, before we started, we were talking about Fellini. And I hear what you're talking about here. Is this kind of a Fellini circus, isn't it?

ARCOS: It is. You know, in Oaxaca there's been a tradition for a couple of centuries now of this sort of traveling circus that goes from village to village. And so what Pasatono Orquesta is doing is kind of recreating that period through music. And so you hear this kind of blend of sort of Eastern European flavors and sometimes a little, like, klezmer-sounding...

RATH: Yeah.

ARCOS: ...With Mexican music. It's this kind of coming together, this kind of river of sounds and the textures.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OBERTURA MAROMA")

PASATONO ORQUESTA: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: Tell me more about this circus celebration. This isn't animals and Barnum & Bailey kind of stuff.

ARCOS: I'm glad you asked. You know, the Maroma tradition in Mexico, the village circus in Mexico, is all about acrobatics - nothing to do with animals. They set up in small towns - sometimes outside of the town - in the evening. And so people come and see these acrobats at night - full moon outside, a band playing, and you are just in a sense almost in a kind of a movie scene.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OBERTURA MAROMA")

PASATONO ORQUESTA: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: Again, the music is by Pasatono Orquesta. Betto, you always leave us with something fabulous. So what do you got here?

ARCOS: Well, this is also one super band. They're from Guadalajara, Jalisco. They are Troker. And they play this fantastic, really cool mix of funk and hip-hop and jazz. And they absolutely just burn on stage.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRINCIPE CHARRO")

RATH: Wild music. And we talked about how Los Aguas Aguas shifted gears all the time. These guys are crazy that way.

ARCOS: Absolutely. This is a tune that if you listen closely to, especially the trumpet riffs, you'll hear a little bit of the hint of mariachi music. Now, Guadalajara, as many people might know, is the capital mariachi music. In fact, it's the capital of tequila. That's where tequila comes from.

So there is a little hint of the sort of mariachi sound but ever so slightly because they don't want to be associated with mariachi. They are nothing to do with mariachi. They are Troker and they - I mean, I've seen these guys on stage. They are something else.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRINCIPE CHARRO")

RATH: The band is Troker - great, great stuff there. The album is called "Crimen Sonor." Go to nprmusic.org to take a longer listen to all of these selections. It's all thanks to Betto Arcos. He's the host of KPFK's Global Village here in Los Angeles. Betto, you did it again. Thank you so much. This was a blast.

ARCOS: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRINCIPE CHARRO")

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