mexican music redefined & renewed
07.13.05 // 11:58 p.m.

Gustavo asked

If you had to choose one Cafe Tacuba album to accompany you on a desert island which one would it be?

Without a doubt, I'd take Re along with me. The primary reasons? I never tire of the twenty songs on the album because they are all differ enough in sound and theme to keep me entertained.

In a Spanish class on Mexican literature, I chose to write a term paper rather than take an in class final. The Chicano professor, Héctor Calderón, included lyrics from some well known leaders in the rock en español movement. We analyzed the lyrics as we would poems. I found the practice fascinating and proposed writing a paper on Re as my final. He agreed.

The 11-page paper, entitled "Café Tacvba’s Re: Mestizaje Redefined and Renewed in Mexican Music" continues to be one of my favorite pieces of writing.

Below is the introduction to the paper and the first paragraph on lyrics analysis section.

Introduction

Re (1994) is one of those albums that you listen to and wonder if you are really listening to the same album. The first time I listened to this I thought that someone might have switched the compact disc in the stereo without me knowing. This second work by Mexico City’s Café Tacuba is considered to be their masterpiece work. The album consists of twenty songs and numerous musical styles juxtaposed to create a work of art that examines Mexican identity at the end of the twentieth century. The themes of the songs are as diverse as the songs themselves. In this paper I will analyze how the music and the lyrics of the album combine to represent a diverse Mexican identity in which differences are celebrated, traditions are challenged and the culture is embraced.

I will also look at how Re seeks to embrace a diverse Mexican identity. Through the lyrics of selected songs as well as the music, instrumentation and liner notes I will explain how Re (short for the re- in the following words and others like it) recycles, repeats, reiterates, revolutionizes, reaffirms and redefines many musical genres to create a Mexican music that is a mixture of those genres. The compact disc cover depicts a snail shell. The spirals represent the cycles of life, another theme in the album, and how indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica saw the circle as something sacred. It represented the beginning and the end, the new and old, basically life itself. The music of the album takes the concepts of the cycle of life and mestizaje to create a masterpiece. Just as Mexicans are an example of the mestizaje of indigenous, African and European races, the music of Re is just as mixed, making it a perfect vehicle to express the national identity of young Mexicans.

Analysis of the songs

The first time I listened to Re I honestly believed that I was listening to a different album at times because one song would be a fast-paced heavy metal rant on youth culture and the next would be a bolero about losing a lover. Someone might wonder how the songs are connected, since the topics range from a man leaving on an alien ship to a far off garden, to the day when the last shall be first. However, the theme that ties each and every song together is that of the recycling of other musical genres to redefine what “lo mexicano” is for their audience, mainly urban youth. They “essentially produce a new standard of what is considered lo mexicano” (Dillon, p. 75). In Dillon’s article they also say “creemos que hay muchos ‘Méxicos’ dentro de este país y nosotros reflejamos lo que somos y vivimos” (p. 80). The lyrics and the instrumentation of the songs on Re reflect Mexican life because the instruments and themes are native to that country. In fact, the band admits that they look inwards to their own culture for inspiration rather than to foreign lands. Essentially, Re is a reflection of the great Mexican musical tradition.

***

If you want to read the rest of the paper, let me know.

In case you're wondering, the professor loved the paper and I earned an A+ on the paper. Later, I'd see him at local rock en español concerts and even visited his class after I had graduated when he had Aldo, the bassist from Maldita Vecindad, as a guest speaker.

[Note: feel free to ask a question. Leave a comment or email at citlalli31ATgmailDOTcom if you prefer to ask something anonymously.]

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Me siento: nervous
Escuchando: las flores - cafe tacuba

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