In the midst of their tour through Mexico, we continue to follow Pajaritos, Boston’s beat-bilingual duo and hosts of monthly Good Life bailando-heavy shindig Picó Picante, through their travels and musical encounters. Here, we’ve got their take on a cazería de sonidos (sound hunt) in the third entry of their tour diary, as recounted by Sara Skolnick and Ernesto Morales.
CAZERÍA DE SONIDOS (Sound Hunt)
Plaza Garibaldi is a haven for mariachi groups offering their talent for purchase: three songs from the (vast) list of recognized classics will cost you only a handful of pesos. At all hours of the day, the mariachis walk up and ask you for requests. Here, amid the languid afternoon crowd, is where we’ve arranged to meet Ashassis Selector, musician and avid scholar of the sounds of Mexico City.
He wears a dark red guayabera shirt and a straw hat, just as he described prior to our meeting. With a cordial moment’s pause for introductions, Ashassis dives straight into the cultural lesson he promised, opening our senses to the sounds and activity of our block-by-block walking tour. He dubs it a cazería de sonidos, or a “sound hunt.”
Ashassis Selector gives us a tour of the sound studio where his group, Maahariff Crew, is based. Video recorded, edited, and produced by Pajaritos.
After dropping his backpack at the glorious ocupa (squat) where he lives – filled with tree trunks, discarded shelves and scavenged sound equipment – we follow his uptempo pace onto the streets again. His fascination for daily life in Mexico City is infectious.
Ashassis Selector takes us for an afternoon cazería de sonidos (sound hunt) through Mexico City. Video recorded, edited, and produced by Pajaritos.
We’ve come to Mexico City with our inevitable mental list of preconceived notions. But Ashassis’ methodical awareness of every sound, image, and interaction encourages us to experience the city simply as it is. It welcomes us to consider the richness of everything we encounter through simple awareness: why not document the sound of a telenovela’s opening credits, of a man passing down the street with cascabeles affixed to his boots, or a sonidero’s dedication to his audience, blasting out of a music store’s speakers?
A brief downpour pacifies the downtown shopping area for the afternoon. We walk down whole blocks that specialize in single product categories: textiles, jewelry, bootleg software, party lights, sound systems and sports equipment. (This last category was noted for later passage through customs – see Entry No. 1.) Whether it’s a taco or a cell phone, vendors call out to you with a rapid ¿Qué le damos? or “What shall we give you?”
A wall of LED signs offers: a dentist, the internet, and beer. The fun goes on.
We finish the sound hunt at Las Duelistas, a pulquería not far from the city center. Pulque, a drink made from the fermented sap of the maguey plant, is experiencing a revival after combating prejudice for being a drink of the “natives.” The drink is still without large-scale popularity, partly due to the beer- and tequila-centric Mexican distributors and to the difficulty of preserving the liquid for shipping. Its scarcity, however, is part of its appeal. The drink is produced in small batches by local pulquerías, which observe their traditional closing time of nine o’clock.
A brief interview with the owner confirms that we may continue our Las Duelistas experience via Facebook, even after the hangovers have waned. With some help from the recent psychedelic paint job by a local artist, this hundred-year-old pulquería has been enjoying wide popularity with the younger crowd. Their 61 thousand online fans receive weekly updates on new flavors – including cranberry, mamey, and the less conceivable Oreo cookie.
The hundred-year-old Las Duelistas in full regalia – updated to reflect modern joys and struggles.
Daniel Hernandez – a Mexico City-based journalist via Los Angeles, and author of the blog Intersections – recorded a mixtape for Domus in 2010 that speaks to the process of embracing this city’s unrelenting noise. Reading from his book, Down and Delirious in Mexico City, with the sounds from his downtown balcony in the background, he muses about the city’s layers of human activity:
“I begin to listen to the noise as a blanket of security. Noise, like smog, means people, commerce, signs of life. There is safety in noise, as there is safety in numbers. Silence is not to be trusted because in Mexico City, silence is insincere. The city never wants to be quiet. There is peace to be made with the noise .… It is a truly cosmopolitan place because here. In the orbit of Tepito, every kind of film, concert video, or album, no matter how obscure, is potentially within grasp, expanding our boundaries and influences. More than extravagant parties or roaming mariachis, life in Mexico City means an English lesson on fruits and vegetables booming in my ears, supersized and out of control during my morning shower.”
“There is peace to be made with the noise,” says Daniel Hernandez.