These young tribaleros were in diapers back in 1996 when Toy Selectah’s hip-hop group, Control Machete, sold over a half-million copies of their debut album. Alongside Control, Monterrey bands like El Gran Silencio, Plastilina Mosh, and Kinky drew on rock, rap, and a wealth of Mexican styles, successfully exploding onto the international tour circuit. In 2001, Toy Hernández produced the dubwise cumbia-reggae crossover hit “Cumbia Sobre El Rio” for OG Monterrey accordionist Celso Piña. The title references La Puente del Papa (“the Pope’s Bridge”)—a mecca for music heads which links La Independencia to downtown.
“At La Puente del Papa I got to meet some of the old school Sonideros,” says tropical dance producer/DJ Chico Sonido. “They would not only have cumbias and tropical music, but they also had a lot of funk, psychedelic rock and disco.” Toy and Chico came of age in the ’90s—LPs, cassettes, turntables. For tribal guarachero kids, historical lineage gets trumped by YouTube’s “related video” links. “I surf YouTube for things to sample,” says Rincon, “then try to ﬁ nd the audio download.”
Producer, Grammy-winner for his production work with Calle 13, and one of those rare dudes who decorates astute observations with trucker-grade swears in English and Español, Toy Selectah raps about “a truly strange mental confusion” in Mexican youth culture, like the way Israeli psy-trance (they call it “psycho”) went big in Mexico. “The same person will be listening to psycho, Tiesto, Paul Van Dyk and Los Tucares de Tijuana. That person will be also listening to pre-Hispanic drums and percussion from who knows where, saying ‘I don’t know where these drums are from. I fucking love santeria and I don’t understand it but I’ll use it. Plus I’m gonna put on some berimbau, though I don’t know if it’s from Brazil or what.’ Tribal guarachero is catharsis, sonic catharsis.”
The genre creates a space where kids can playfully experiment how local roots (from psycho to narcocorridos) tangle with random internet click-trails (inexplicably, it samples lots from Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy). This explains those mysterious swinging triplet beats in tribal. The Monterrey kids grew up hearing rancheras, huapangos and corridos, all in 3/4 time. This meter reappears in folk music across Latin America, and it creeps into tribal even though they’re using software that defaults to 4/4 beat structures. Kids all over the world make tracks with FruityLoops, but you have to be strong or stubborn to pack it so thick with structural references to other Mexican music—particularly folding in those alternate time signatures, those sneaky triplets that move the body more subtly. This is why Toy Selectah’s convinced tribal guarachero will end up in the rodeos, random bars, at places all over the diaspora—because it is straight-up unromantic Mexican dance music, and they’ll instantly hear its roots and understand where it’s coming from. The Mexican-time at the heart of tribal guarachero sets it apart from other more visible genres of global bass. “For some reason I never got into experimenting with Baltimore, baile funk or kuduro sounds,” says Chico Sonido. “But tribal guarachero, I can feel it, makes a lot of sense to me.” He calls it “Aztec Rave from the future.”
When his insane international DJ schedule allows, Toy Selectah mentors Rincon and Sheeqo, offering studio advice, sharing music on YouTube, whatever he can to keep the movement positive. It’s a version of what he’ll be doing when he labs up with old friends Calle 13 in Miami next week: vibing, helping musicians to connect the dots and draw out a bigger picture. “The music is in the hands of the DJs producing it, the whole industry circle hasn’t hit yet. There aren’t singers, there aren’t rappers. Right now it’s music for the club,” he explains. “Same thing happened in reggaeton—back then, it was simply known as ‘underground.’” Toy knows: he spent several years doing hip-hop and reggaeton A&R for Universal. “In two, three years, there’ll be tribal guarachero singers and MCs and songs with the rhythm. My head spins thinking that we should be doing it!”
And they are. While the mainstream media’s narrative for Monterrey tells of a formerly safe city ravaged by encroaching drug wars (nearly 300 people were killed there this year), tribal guarachero’s potency and exuberance tells the other story: irrepressible youth culture sweating it out in a healthy scene so hype that they barely have time to realize what’s being created. Rincon just gave away 40 tracks of his online, “for the people who don’t have my tunes from 2009 and 2010.” He’s naturally generous and knows that the best is yet to come. The stream of kids exiting Arco in time to hop on the free Sunday metro towards home agree—they’ll be back next week.