Tijuana Rocks

Nortec music sparks a new borderland aesthetic

| March/April 2001

Musicians Pepe Mogt and Ramon Bostich peer through a hole in the high metal wall that divides their city, Tijuana, from the United States. On the U.S. side, three cyclone fences topped with razor wire deter immigrants from the American Dream, while here in the Colonia Nido de Aguilas, junked cars decompose and half-starved dogs troll for food. A Border Patrol helicopter buzzes overhead, and in an odd moment, the pilot waves at the musicians and they wave back. Bostich points out a fence made entirely of washing-machine lids that encircles the junkyard.

'It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?' says Bostich, admiring the fence as if it were a piece of art. 'In Tijuana, everything inspires our music.'

Mogt, 30, and Bostich, 37, say they aren’t bothered that the outskirts of their town look like a militarized zone. Spending time in this chaotic border town of 3 million where gleaming new maquiladoras with names like Sony and Hitachi meet crumbling poverty is like wandering through a post-apocalyptic movie set where the Third World meets the First. If Tijuana is like a surreal movie, then Mogt and Bostich have created the perfect soundtrack for this final Latin American frontier. They call it Nortec, a hybrid of techno beats and Mexican Norteño rhythms.

On weekends, Tijuana’s Nortec music fans pack the Jai Alai stadium on Avenida Revolucion or the clubs a half-hour down the coast in Rosarito to dance all night to electronic groups like Mogt’s Fussible or Ramon Bostich’s one-man trance groove– inspired outfit Bostich. Mogt and Bostich are hesitant to call these happenings raves, preferring instead to call them 'parties' where like-minded electronic music fans meet. In the past year, Nortec has started to grow into something more than just a musical style—it’s become a full-blown movement in Tijuana, including art, design, and even architecture.

A longtime presence in Tijuana’s electronic music scene, Bostich (a.k.a. Ramon Amezcua) started playing ambient techno in 1988. (He took the name Bostich from the title of a song by Yello, a Swiss duo now considered one of techno’s early pioneers.) But it’s Pepe Mogt who is credited with the idea of merging traditional Norteño with electronic music. Nortec was born in 1998, when Mogt heard a Sinaloense (West Coast Mexican) band at a family wedding and wondered how traditional Norteño music would sound mixed with electronic music.

'I grew up listening to punk rock and electronic music—I hated Norteño,' says Mogt. 'Maybe I’m just getting older and coming back to my roots, but that’s when I really started listening to the rhythms in the music for the first time.'