Border Techno

Nor-tec Rifa!: Electronic Dance Music from Tijuana to the World by Alejandro L. Madrid
Nor-tec Rifa!: Electronic Dance Music from Tijuana to the World by Alejandro L. Madrid
Nor-tec Rifa!: Electronic Dance Music from Tijuana to the World by Alejandro L. Madrid (Oxford University Press)

Border towns are fascinating urban centers, which are natural crossroads for the exchange of ideas and cultures. The Mexican city of Tijuana, located just across from the United States, south of San Diego (California) is no exception. During the past decades, Tijuana’s most creative artists were exposed to music and other art forms from both sides of the border and beyond. The book Nor-Tec Rifa! explores the history and development of the exciting Nor-Tec sound, a blend of northern Mexican popular music with electronic dance music from the United States and Europe. The name Nor-Tec combines norteño with techno.


Alejandro L. Madrid sets the context for this hybrid musical revolution, providing details about the Mexican regional (norteña, banda, and grupera) traditions and various electronic genres (house, techno, ambient, breakbeat, trance, etc. ) styles that inspired the Nor-Tec musicians.

Most famous of all was the Nor-Tec Collective, founded by musicians and producers, including Ramón Amezcua (Bostich), Pedro Gabriel Beas (Hiperboreal), Ignacio Chávez Uranga (Plankton Man), Fernando Corona (Terrestre), Roberto Mendoza (Panóptica), Jorge Ruiz (Melo), José Trinidad Morales (Pepe Mogt), Jorge Verdín (member of Clorofila), and Fritz Torres (member of Clorofila). These musicians were joined by an equally talented group of graphic designers.

Personal accounts by the artists themselves explain how the musical ideas came together. In a personal interview with the author of the book, Pepe Mogt describes how at a family party he came up with the idea of using sampled northern Mexican rhythmic patterns:  Jorge [Ruiz] "Melo" and I went to my sister’s party. Obviously, my family hired a norteño group, and we ended up sitting right by the stage. We were there, enjoying the party but I was already listening to those norteño sounds with new ears.

Listening to the instruments, especially the  percussion, the drum set … and I thought that it might be possible to integrate them into electronic music because they sounded very interesting. You know, when it is live, the sound is really huge and that motivated me to try to experiment and create something new, especially because it is a sound that has always been in Tijuana but I had never really paid attention to it. So I told Jorge and he was like: "No, No, man! How do you think we are gonna mix norteño? That’s the very last thing we are gonna mix!" That’s why I call him the first Nor-tec dissident. Jorge’s attitude was that of most musicians."

The author, Alejandro L. Madrid is a musicologist and cultural theorist whose research focuses on the intersection of modernity, tradition and globalization in music and expressive culture from Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border. In 2005 Alejandro received the prestigious Casa de las Américas Musicology Prize. He is Assistant Professor of Latin American and Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Nor-Tec Rifa! is a captivating account of the infectious energy brewing in Tijuana that led to the creation of a new hybrid musical genre.

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Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for TelevisiĆ³n EspaƱola (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.


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