23rd April, 1988
We're still on the earlier legs of our journey, early enough for me to still be obsessed with marking firsts. And this is two big ones: the first real regional (pronounced rayhee-oh-NAL) song, which I'll get into later, and our first encounter with a man who will be a more-or-less constant companion throughout the next two decades: Marco Antonio Solís.

Solís, with his cousin Joel, founded Los Bukis in the early 70s in Michoacán, one of Mexico's southwestern states. From their first single ("Falso Amor," 1975) they became one of the most popular bands in the country, with strong followings in the United States and Puerto Rico. Their name means "the kids" in the Yaqui language of northern Mexico, and that identification with the indigenous underclass (however superficial) pointed to the sort of panamericanismo to which most Latin Pop stars would at least pay lip service in the years to come.

But Los Bukis were no trad outfit, singing old songs in old styles and busking for tourist dollars. (It's worth noting here that the questions of authenticity and keeping-it-realism which exercise so many commentators in the American and Anglo pop spheres have very little to do with how Third World pop stars actually make use of their own native pop forms. Solidarity with the poor is better expressed financially than through canons of taste.) Their regionalismo was a glossy, uptown take on the country-fried rancheras and corridos, with plush up-to-date instrumentation and a versatile, tempered instrument in Solís' lead vocals. Like a Mexican version of the countrypolitan movement of the 1960s, Los Bukis gave their listeners a thoroughly Mexican, thoroughly modern music that worked just as well in the bustling urban centers as in the open spaces of the countryside: an aspirational music for the emerging middle class on both sides of the border.

"Y Ahora Te Vas" ("and now you leave") was written by Solís, who wrote nearly all the group's material (his going solo several years down the road, spoiler alert, was less an escandalo de pop than a foreordained conclusion; no one flocked to Los Bukis concerts to see the other guys), and is a solid if unpretentious regional song. My comparison of the genre with country music in the American market is both illuminating and misleading; like country, regional relies on specific images to tell universal stories, but unlike country it's not really relegated to a specialized market (at least in Mexico, and since we're telling the story of Latin Pop in the U.S., there's going to be a lot of overlap with the story of Mexican pop).

It's a breakup song, the kind that George Jones did so well — "and now you're leaving, knowing I couldn't find/The motive in your soul, the love I feel for you/To whom will you give everything you never gave to me/Who will cry for you, as I do, some day" — the faithless beloved throwing over our creamy-voiced hero, but he'd take her back in a heartbeat nevertheless. The instrumentation is dominated by cheap synthesizers, but in 1988 that still coded as uptown, classy, and American in regional music. The occasional interpolation of regionalismo into our story has its own story of change, cool, and identity which doesn't always correspond with the shifts in the larger Latin Pop scene. But more about that when we come to it.

1 comment:

  1. Like Merlin, I'm going through life backwards, or at least going through Bilbo's Laptop backwards. In any event, here I am, and I decided that it made more sense to link my old Ricky Martin review here than at the coming out party over on Tumblr. It's kinda on the subject of what Anglos want from Latin music, maybe what the Latin diaspora wants from Latin music, and maybe what Puerto Ricans want from Latin music (which if Ricky is an example - I have no idea, really - is unequivocally international, and not particularly "Latin," though that might just be what they want from Ricky Martin).

    And while I'm here, I'll link "Laura Branigan versus Ricky Martin," the one time he made my livejournal.

    (Speaking of country, we're having a country poll over on Poptimists, and also "Women Getting Violent/Creative Revenge On Men," which might as well be a country poll. And I assume you know about ILM's Rolling Country thread, but I've linked it in case you don't.)