As Mexico experienced an angry new wave of rock music beginning in the 1990s which centered upon revolutionary ideals and a punk ethic, no band proved as forceful and confrontational as Tijuana No! In terms of lyrical content, the sextet—comprising vocalist Luis Güereña, percussionist Teca Garcia, vocalist and keyboardist Ceci Bastida, bassist Jorge “Norja” Velasquez, guitarist Jorge Jiménez, and drummer Alex Zuniga—tackles subjects ranging from political corruption to racism sung in Spanish, English, and “Span-glish.” They have always seen themselves as the voice of the downtrodden on both sides of the Mexican-United States border, as well as throughout Central and South America. Musically, the band blends punk with traditional Latin elements, emitting an energy often compared to that of Rage Against the Machine and Rancid.
“Tijuana No! has always been versatile, always experimenting and putting everything we knew musically into our sound,” Güereña told Enrique Lavin, a writer for the Los Angeles Times.“Until the quality of life for the underclass improves around the world, we will always sing about political awareness.”
Today, Tijuana No! sings about the Zapatista and Tupac Amaru guerilla movements in Mexico and Peru, respectively. However, the band does not reserve their music for specific communities. In fact, the group’s third album, Contra-Revolution Avenue released in 1998, marked Tijuana No!’s first official attempt to tap into the American market. “We think it’s important that as many people as possible hear our music,” Güereña concluded, as quoted by Latino Visión online. The group hopes that their message will someday reach a wider audience.
Tijuana No! was formed in the late 1980s by a group of friends with common ideals and musical interests. Previously, Güereña promoted punk bands and organized shows for American and Mexican acts in the border town of Tijuana. As a child, because of Tijuana’s proximity to Southern California, Güereña had access to music that was popular in America and Europe. Growing up, he saw artists such as Genesis and Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin, and later on discovered jazz and punk rock. Before teaming with his friends to form Tijuana No!, he also performed in a band called Solución Mortal, and recalls having to smuggle the group’s bassist, the only member without legal papers, through border tomato fields for gigs in nearby San Diego and Los Angeles, California.
While working as a promoter, Güereña met Zuniga at a fundraiser he helped organize to raise money for the leftist rebels in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys, among other well-known punk acts, performed at the event. Zuniga, meanwhile, had been working in another group called Chantaje with vocalist Julietta Venegas, and invited Güereña to join. Soon thereafter, the trio recorded a demo tape inspired by ska and punk. The resulting sound would form the foundation of Tijuana No!’s music.
The rest of the Tijuana No! lineup subsequently came on board in 1989, including Bastida (who replaced Venegas), Garcia, Velasquez, and Jiménez. At first, they called themselves simply No! as a sort of general protest, but learned of another band with the same name based in Mexico City. In the early 1990s, Tijuana No! proceeded to build a reputation through live performances. Regarded as a stirring, provocative live act since their beginning, Tijuana No! continues to captivate and command an audience. According to Los Angeles Times reviewer Enrique Lopetegui, “Tijuana No! is even more electrifying now, jumping from ska to reggae and from rap to World Beat collages without sacrificing its punk foundation. The group fills each song with so much color that it sometimes seems as if the band is trying to put everything it knows into every number.”
After scoring their first hit, “Pobre de ti” (Poor You), in 1993, Tijuana No! released their self-titled debut in 1994. Across Mexico, as well as within the Mexican community in the United States, Latin and alternative music fans were immediately captivated by the group’s punk spirit. Their hybrid sound blends Afro-Latin folk-punk with reggae, hardcore rock, ska, hip-hop, and world music. The vocal quality of Tijuana No! also proved intriguing. Through the different voices of Garcia, who raps, and Güereña, who growls, alongside the
Members include Ceci (Cecilia) Bastida, vocals, keyboards; Teca Garcia (born in Mexico City, Mexico), percussion;Luis Güereña (born in Tijuana, Mexico), vocals; Jorge Jiménez, guitar; Jorge “Norja” Velasquez, bass guitar; Alex Zuniga, drums.
Formed band in Tijuana, Mexico, 1989; released self-titled debut, 1994; performed alongside bands such as Rage Against the Machine at the Big Top Locos festival in Los Angeles, 1993-94; released Transgresores de la Ley, 1995; released Contra-Revolution Avenue, 1998.
female voice of Bastida, who sings with a folksy bite, Tijuana No! can sound like three bands in one. “We don’t look to fall under any one musical line or genre,” said Güereña, as quoted by Latino Visión. “Our sound is a fusion that reflects what everyone brings to the group.”
Ironically, the group members compose the musical part of a song, adding the lyrics as a final step. As Güereña explained to Frank Barbano in an interview for Retila magazine online, “we write individually and then compare, share, and get each others’ feedback and finalize. We make the music first and then write lyrics.”
As their recording career got underway, Tijuana No! continued to raise funds for political causes. In both 1993 and 1994, they participated in key benefits such as the Big Top Locos festival in Los Angeles where they performed alongside Rage Against the Machine and Youth Brigade.
In the mid 1990s, Tijuana No! directed much of their attention toward the situation in Chiapas. Consequently, they dedicated their second album, Transgresores de la Ley, (Transgressors of the Law) released in 1995, to the Zapatista rebels. Interestingly, the album’s title refers to the name used by the Mexican government to describe the Zapatistas as delinquents. The title track still holds a special place for the members of Tijuana No! “Even when I hear it my hair tingles,” Güereña remarked to Barbano, “it’s very emotional for me. It gives the signal to uprise and go to war.” The album also featured a rendition of the Clash’s “Spanish Bombs” sung by Bastida.
Aspiring to take their political message to areas outside their own geographic region, Tijuana No! set about crafting songs for a third album. With guest musicians hailing from various places—from the Basque region of Spain to the American Midwest—the group broke down such barriers as language, genre, and citizenship with Contra-Revolution Avenue.Released in 1998, the album featured contributions from rasta-punk legend H.R. of Bad Brains, Kim Deal of the Breeders, Latin hip-hop artist Kid Frost, Fishbone’s Angelo Moore, Kid Caviar of the group Horny Toad, and Negu Gorriak’s Fermin Muguruza, as well as members of the Los Angeles-based punk-a-billy outfit Calavera and the Pietasters. John Pantle, Tijuana No!’s manager and a trombonist, also participated.
Although the album involved musicians from around the world, Contra-Revolution Avenue, as the title suggests, maintained Tijuana No!’s focus on exposing oppression and hypocrisy. The name is a play on the name of Tijuana’s commercial strip, Avienda Revolución, where many destitute people live. As Garcia explained to Lavin: “We see ourselves as an extension of the voice for the poor and the disadvantaged.”
Tijuana No!, RCA, 1994.
Transgresores de la Ley, RCA, 1995.
Contra-Revolution Avenue, RCA, 1998.
Los Angeles Times, April 4, 1995; June 27, 1996; August 1, 1997; August 2, 1997; January 3, 1999.
All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 16,2001).
Latino Vision, http://www.latinovision.com (February 16,2001).
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