FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

On With The Sonidero!

Sonideros are commonly described as the club DJs of Mexico. Towards the end of the 1950s, they began to liven up neighbourhood dances, block parties, and popular salons in Mexico City.
June 2, 2008, 12:00am

Sonideros are commonly described as the club DJs of Mexico. Towards the end of the 1950s, they began to liven up neighbourhood dances, block parties, and popular salons in Mexico City. Substituting the traditional trios, groups, and big bands, they performed at quinceañera birthdays, baptisms, founder’s days, weddings, and anniversaries of all kinds. At the beginning they used sound equipment modified to make the music more powerful—and to not explode when the current skipped, which happened often then. They amplified and accentuated the music with live trumpets. Soon a lighting scheme was incorporated: They built devices of multicoloured lights out of reflectors from Volkswagens and airplanes and made them spin with windshield wiper motors. They played music that wasn’t popular, but was soon validated and consolidated in Mexico thanks to them: mainly cumbias, guarachacas, and sones montunos. These genres made the trip from Columbia in a slow trickle of imported records. As disco and then techno made it less embarrassing for people to go and dance in dark rooms together, the popularity of sonideros has grown. Today, new soundsytems like la changa, el condor and polymarchs are presented in Mexico and the United States to massive audiences of immigrants and non-immigrants, with sound systems so huge they have to travel the highways in tractor trailers. The changing tides have translated into a distinct sonidera aesthetic, which combines the iconography of flags with tropical images, and industrial emblems with religious symbols in logos, cards, posters, banners, magazines, and web pages. Until recently, the webpage for el cóndor sound had a Flash animation in which a huge truck crosses the Mexico/US border to the theme from Star Wars, while Che Guevara’s face rises on the horizon. Seriously. Their new intro animation depicts a techno version of Aztec city of Tenochtitlán with a touch of Thailand, leading up to a global overseas expansion of Mexico City. It’s flanked by the dates of performances in the United States. When you click them, little smoke bomb GIFs explode. A sonidero salon is total chaos. Hi-NRG techno mixed with traditional Mexican melodies. Spastic disco lights. The ear-shattering music and chatter that bursts at maximum power from gigantic amps. On top of all this is the voice of the sonidero himself, electronically distorted until it has a super-human quality, making dedications and delivering the shout-outs and messages that the club-goers send to the DJ booth scribbled on scraps of paper. In the middle of a circle of gobsmacked admirers, dancers perform the choreographed moves that they practice in their private clubs. Their movements come separated, spaced out and lucid; depending on the music genre, they become more audacious or more rhythmic. Sonidero dancers come from all walks of life: matrons, office workers, transvestites, boys and girls, men, indie rockers, and gays dance in twos and threes. A sense of community is created that’s comparable to the early days of British rave, with groups of seemingly disparate sociological groups all squeezing and gyrating together in dark sweaty rooms. Lost in an ecstatic trance, but without the MDMA. MARIANA DELGADO