What song comes to mind when you think of the border? We asked individuals who work at the crossing and live on either side of the border this question and compiled their answers for our final Borderblaster Live Recording Event: Mixtape for Crossing. The project's finale invited individuals to contribute songs along with the stories behind those songs to the creation of a collaborative mixtape that would be the basis of Transmission 6--the final transmission of Borderblaster.
Borderblaster: Transmission 6 "Mixtape for Crossing"
To produce the mixtape, we invited DJ Ganas of Mas Exitos (aka Gary Garay) to set up what he calls his "mutant mobile sonidero cart" at Cognate Space inside of the Mercado de Artesanias de La Linea. Ganas' mobile sonidero system, which plays all common formats of music, is composed of a turntable, multiple CD changer, cassette tape player, amplifier, mixer, microphone and speakers, all balanced on a found janitors cart. The cart is a nod to sonidero sound systems popular in marginalized neighborhoods in Mexico City that set up on streets to play cumbia standards, take requests, and give shout-outs to local crowds.
For our final Live Recording Event, we wanted to create a similar environment at the Mercado de Artesanias, imagining vendors and the individuals waiting in line in their cars as participants and audience. We asked vendors to bring songs they would like to include as part of the mixtape, and also put out a call for individuals to submit songs/stories online. We wanted to produce a playlist that would capture various relationships individuals have to the border, relationships defined by nostalgia, frustration, melancholy, optimism, fondness and/or happiness. The mixtape documents how these relationships are forged and are constantly relived through music.
Ganas interlaced the submissions we received with his own record, tape and CD collection of music from the border and/or about the border, often times using his collection to compliment and respond to the submissions received. One of the shop owners in the market for example chose to submit The Doors "Break on through"--drawing on his own taste in music from the period and thinking of the border as both a physical and symbolic wall. Ganas followed this with Los Ovnis' "Enciende mi Fuego" a cover of The Doors' "Light my Fire". The version by Los Ovnis, a band from Mexico City with a strong following in the 60s for their covers, begins with the lines (in Spanish) "Don't think about turning back / Your night will envelop us / The mind will no longer think / and you will give me your love".
The understanding of the border morphs from a violent eruption through a wall, to a tale of seduction and desire. The mixtape is riddled with such moments, which capture and playback aspects of the border's multiple facets--moments in which you hear how individuals negotiate their feelings towards the border line.
The mixtape begins with the abstract pre-Columbian/Sci-fi soundscapes of Luis Perez's 1981 record Ipan In Xiktli Metzli. The music simultaneously recalls a distant past and far away galaxies, synthesizing old and new to produce a soundtrack for littorals, an apt introduction to the liminal zone that is the border and more specifically the border crossing.
The first contributions featured as part of the playlist are two songs submitted by Doña Bertha, one of the leaders of the artisan co-op Mujeres Mixtecas. As an introduction to the songs, we included a segment of an interview with Doña Bertha, where she discusses her attachment to the music, which was purchased by her husband in her home state of Guerrero. Many of these Mixtec songs she tells us, speak about migration, about husbands leaving their loved ones in search of better opportunities in other towns and in some cases in the United States. Having migrated to Tijuana in search of better opportunities herself, she relates to the stories in these songs, and appreciates that they remind her of family, friends and the towns in Guerrero she once called home. Doña Bertha works informally at the border, selling candies and small handmade bracelets and dolls to people waiting line.
In addition to including contributions from people who work at the crossing, we also wanted to mix in songs that reminded people of the experience of crossing the border--of having to wait the long lines that gather at the port of Entry. We received submissions of songs that reminded people of crossing the border with loved ones ranging from Mexican regional standards like Ramon Ayala's "Seis Rosas Amarillas", to choices that demonstrate the influence of American music at the border like The Cure's "A Few Hours After This". We also received submissions that expressed desires of escape, of wanting to flee the long lines. The submission "Caballo Prieto Azabache" by Antonio Aguilar, for example was a song a contributor heard often while waiting in line as a child. As she would wait and listen to the song, she would wish she had a horse to ride, to weave through the traffic and cross the border without having to wait in line.
As Ganas was mixing and playing these tracks, we recorded the audio as we had done in previous Live Recording Events to transmit the following week; but we also wanted to try to transmit the process live. This was in part because the mixtape was conceived as something individuals waiting in their cars could listen to as they crossed the border--a catalyst for reflection on the process and significance of crossing the border. After overcoming a few technical difficulties, we managed to broadcast the entire creation of the mixtape on October 3rd, to cars waiting in line by the Mercado de Artesanias de La Linea at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
A portion of the three-hour long mixtape was retransmitted on Friday November 9th, as Transmission 6, the final transmission of the Borderblaster project. And with that transmission, cognate collective's foray into hyper-localized radio at the border came to a close...for now.
We are currently in conversation with shop owners about the possibility of organizing and coordinating future iterations of Borderblaster. For now, we would like to thank everyone who participated in this initial exploration into sound interventions at the crossing.
Transmissions, videos and pictures of the project will be on view at the University Art Gallery on the campus of UCSD, as part of Living as Form (the Nomadic Version), which made the project possible. On November 26, the curator of Living as Form, Nato Thompson will be joining Grant Kester and participating artists for a roundtable presentation about socially engaged art at UCSD. For more information, please visit: http://uag.ucsd.edu/talks-and-events/future.shtml.
"Mixtape for Crossing" Complete Tracklist:
Luis Perez - Ipan In Xiktli Metzli
Musica Mixteca- Track 5*
Musica Mixteca- Track 6*
Noe Falcon y Su Famlia- La Migra
Natural- Rafaga de Violencia*
El General- Bridge Blend
Andres Landero- White Label
Bob Marley- Concrete Jungle*
Los Tigres del Norte- La Banda del Carro Rojo
Los Angeles Negros- Afrodita
La Revolucion de Emiliano Zapata- Nasty Sex
Los Junior- Sueños de California
Revolucion Mexicana- El Corrido Del Norte*
Banda SInaloense El Recodo- Embeleso
15 Joyitas Cumbianeras- Virgen de Guadalupe
Buyepongo- La Yuca
Nortec Collective- Tengo la Voz*
Hay Guey- Tzochitl Soundsystem vs. Toy Selectah
Grupo Emperador- Cumbia de los Cholos
Jorge Reyes- La Casa Oscura
Manu Chao- Bienvenido A Tijuana*
Frankie y Los Matadores- Frontera
Juan Gabriel- La Frontera
Los Apson- Mi Tamborin ?
The Growlers- Tijuana
Sola- Tabu Tabu
Rabbits and Carrots- Romeo and Juliet
Daniel (Border Street Performer) - "Llueve sobre Mojado" (by Camilo Sesto)
Los Babies- Gente en el Cielo
Ramon Ayala- Seis Rosas
Manny Perez y Los Cachiros- Tijuana
Medio Mutante- Inestable
Conjunto Los Miticos del Ritmo- Step Into a World
Las Novias de la Cumbia- Cumbia de la Guitara Electrica
Mansanita y su Conjunto- Paga La Cuenta sin Verguenza
Musica Sonidera- Por tu Indiferencia
DJ Lengua- La Frontera
Chico Sonido- Volar
Los Beatniks- Este Amor es lo Mejor
Ricardo Arjona- Si el Norte Fuera el Sur*
Yuri- Karma Camaleon
The Cure - A Few Hours After This*
Madonna - Borderline*
The Stylistics - You Make Me Feel Brand New*
Hermanos Calatrava - Space Oddity
Jose Alfredo Jimenez- El Rey*
Melissa Mares - A Tijuana Me Voy*
Los X-5 a go-go - A Tijuana Me Voy
Little Joe and the Latinaires - I'm your Puppet
? and the Mysterians - 96 Tears
Sunny and the Sunliners - Cross My Heart
The 5 Blobs - Domingo en Tijuana
Break On Through - The Doors*
Los Ovnis - Enciende Mi Fuego
Vicente Fernandez - Caballo Prieto Azabache*
Banda Sinaloense El Recodo - Mexicano Hasta Las Cachas*
* Tracks contributed to Mixtape for Crossing/Mezcla para Cruzar in person and via Facebook.
Click here to see a visual selection of records and cassettes included in the mixtape.
Listen to and read about all the Borderblaster transmissions from Tijuana: