After the untimely death of Juan Gabriel just over a month ago, the world was left with serious Juanga-stalgia. With playlists, tattoos, memorabilia, and Telemundo’s TV series all making headlines out of the life and times of El Divo de Juárez, the best tributes continue to pour in from the countless artists touched by the legend’s lyricism and penchant for drama. One of the more unusual tributes to Juan Gabriel’s genius comes from Mexico City-based producer Alberto Bustillos (aka Magiobus), who has been churning out catchy chiptune covers of classic Juanga songs over the past few weeks.
Bustillos tells us he grew up in a musical family, with a father who played guitar in a wedding covers band. Citing Los Bukis and Joan Sebastian as constant influences during his upbringing, it’s no surprise that the death of Juan Gabriel made an impact on the musician. “I was never a Juanga superfan, per se,” he reflects, “but I must recognize the man was very important in Mexico’s musical landscape. After his passing I had the thought to pay homage by reimagining his songs in 8bit. Though I’m still working on the project, a lot of people started saying that the only thing missing was a full-fledged game, which they could totally envision.”
The Chihuahua native first developed an interest in video game soundtracks back in 2008, when he “started noticing people in Mexico who were making music with Game Boys and old consoles,” he explains. “Back then I was making strictly chiptune music under the name Doublebit, but the further I went I started incorporating more synths and it’s eventually what led to Magiobus as it is today.” Proof positive: His 2015 EP Chiptune Life is a beautiful and layered portrait of everyday life through a video game hero’s pixelated eyes.
Peppy chiptune covers of “El Noa Noa,” “Querida,” and “No Tengo Dinero” have appeared on Magiobus’ SoundCloud, and as a full EP rapidly takes shape, Bustillos has begun working with interactive art developers Super Game Jammers to bring Juan Gabriel into the glorious video game world we’ve always known he could inhabit. “After I put out [“El Noa Noa” and “No Tengo Dinero”], a lot of people were like, ‘A game would be really cool!’ And so that’s where we’re at. I think it’s going to be a web game, but we’re literally watching his old music videos, like ‘El Noa Noa’ and trying to recreate them in 8bit.”
In spite of chiptune’s kitschy appeal, Bustillos continues to explore and play with new sounds and arrangements, steering clear of gimmicky repetition. As one half of synth pop duo Ex-Novias along with Dromedarios Mágicos’ Diego Puerta, Bustillos has brought bouncy nuance to the project by incorporating some of his Magiobus experiments. A self-proclaimed geek, Bustillos finds the time to juggle his passion for music with a full-time coding job and freelance magician gigs. “Almost everyone calls me Magio,” he adds. “I also perform magic and close range illusions. When I was looking for a Twitter handle, I just added Bus from my last name, and ta-dah, there it was!”