You know, something has only just occurred to me. After the respective falls of France, Italy, and England, there was plenty of talk on football websites about the dominance of South America at this tournament, with their representatives in the quarter finals totalling half the draw. And yet, the tables have turned dramatically – European teams have put an end to Brazil and Argentina’s hope in emphatic style, while an admittedly impressive Paraguay couldn’t do enough to take Spain out and the continent’s lone remaining team, Uruguay, needed the Hand of God II to even have the chance to beat Ghana on penalties.
And to think, back when Mexico and Uruguay qualified from Group A at the expense of 2006’s beaten finalists France, it all looked so rosy. It was only a spot of continental in-fighting with Argentina that stopped Mexico’s impressive run – one so incredible that it even managed to make Giovani dos Santos look like a professional footballer.
Since they border America, you would expect that plenty of Mexican acts have found favour there – intriguingly, that’s not the case, as most of the acts that have crossed the border from the Mexican charts to the American ones have been from elsewhere in South America, be that Columbia (Shakira), Spain (Julio Iglesias), or Puerto Rico (Ricky Martin). The one clear and obvious exception to that is Carlos Santana, the man behind one of the biggest selling albums of all time in Supernatural. I’m not going to post his music here – you’ve all heard it already, right? – but I am going to acknowledge the role he had to play both in defining the sound of Mexican rock, and allowing it to blossom by showing what could be achieved. One of the biggest bands to keep blazing a trail for Mexican rock after that is Cafe Tacvba, a group with a sound that switches at will between ska, alternative rock, samba, bossa nova, hip-hop, and jazz – go and investigate their 1994 album Re and marvel at how much it sounds like a product of the internet age’s short attention span, rather than any of ’94s masterpieces.
Rodrigo y Gabriela deserve a mention here too, of course, for the sizeable cult following they’ve picked up ever since they started appearing in guitar magazines and tab websites following their cover of Metallica’s “One” on 2004’s Live in Manchester and Dublin. For a while, plenty of people just thought they were a Metallica covers band, as more of their arrangements started to appear online in the form of live bootlegs and the story that were originally in a thrash metal band got garbled; it wasn’t until 2006’s self-titled album (a number one in their adopted homeland of Ireland) that the rest of the world realised their potential and heard their original compositions. Here’s one of them from that album which, like all the others, sets a raft of traditional Mexican influences to the kind of breakneck pace that their virtuosity demands.
The brilliant Murcof seems like a pretty good way to step away from guitars for a second, so here’s a track from his 2002 debut, Martes. His vision of electronica – with IDM percussion sounds worked into traditional dance rhythms and snippets of classical music pitched between the glitches – makes him my personal favourite Mexican musician, so I couldn’t really leave him out here, could I?