Mexican Avant-Garde Festival Mutek.MX Is Helping Kids Explore Music & Tech in CDMX

AAAA. Photo by Ritta Trejo. Courtesy of the artist

The longstanding Mexican edition of the forward-thinking digital arts festival Mutek is finally coming to life across Mexico City and Estado de México this month, following some hiccups in the wake of the September earthquake. Apart from showcasing the very best of today’s electronic music in its multiple manifestations, the week-long fest will also feature immersive audiovisual screenings and performances, VR experiences, and interactive installations, as well as a few practical workshops linked to technology and creation.

Alongside creative media educational institution SAE Mexico and Alumnos 47, a non-profit organization that connects local communities in Mexico City through contemporary art practices, Mutek.Mx is hosting a workshop for aspiring producers. Titled Translaciones, it is designed for young people from any background who share an interest in electronic music creation and experimentation, even if they don’t have any previous experience. In four sessions at the Alumnos 47 mobile unit (a truck that typically travels around town serving as a mobile library) participants will learn about producing and performing electronic music, and creating their own compositions using sounds recorded around the city as raw material. They will then show the result with a special live performance during the festival’s free closing event at the Tamayo Museum, where their lessons will come full circle, as participants will feed their processed urban sounds back into the city.

Gabo Barranco (aka AAAA) is directing the Translaciones sessions. The Estado de México native knows a thing or two about electronic music, as he has spent the past five years producing tracks and performing under that moniker. His mechanical beats, emotive atmospheres, aggressive bass lines, and acid-drenched synths are too diverse and twisted to just be labeled techno, and his latest EP, Jazz D – his debut on American imprint OMNIDISC – is further proof. He’s also familiar with making music inspired by urban life, as evidenced in the video for his single “Wolves Rough Kiss.”

AAAA. Photo by Miguel Torres. Courtesy of the artist
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AAAA is no stranger to Mutek.Mx, as the festival has championed his career from the start, having invited him every year since 2014. He’s played solo, back-to-back with Austrian producer Tin Man, and is now taking on the task of leading Translaciones.

To learn more about Translaciones, which kicked off on October 23, we interviewed Barranco, who also shared details on his relationship with the city and his experience with the festival.

What is the goal of Translaciones? How will participants incorporate the city in the pieces they create in the workshop?
This [takes place] in an inclusive environment, where it is never a requirement to know how to manipulate sound or make music. The goal is to develop awareness about the possibilities of art and technology, and prepare the kids for a live show inspired by the city.

The idea is to use transductors/microphones and digital recorders to register sounds from the city and use them as elements in their creations, manipulating them through samples. We’re still working on the live performance and its format, [because] the group is sizeable.

What would you consider a successful result of the workshop to be?
There are many talented kids [participating] in the workshop. I’d like to be a positive influence on their development and sound, and to create a good experience in these first steps they’re taking. Many kids in Mexico need incentives and to be encouraged; they need to be stimulated, and I think this is a great initiative by Mutek, Alumnos 47, ad SAE Institute.

How do you feel the city impacts your work, and how does it manifest in your music?
It’s hard for me to describe how my environment influences me when I create, but it’s a fact. When I think of tracks or EPs I’ve worked on before, I also think about the places where I had my studio set up. The previous two EPs I released, I made them in downtown Mexico City and the Colonia Roma, where everything is sort of more aggressive and has a more active dynamic. I wrote my latest work, Jazz D EP, which came out this month on Miami’s OMNIDISC, in the city suburbs, a place where there’s some kind of tranquility and certainly more nature. I think you can hear that in the end result.

This will be your fourth consecutive year participating in Mutek.MX, which has supported your project since its beginnings. What does it mean for you to be part of the festival and to be considered by the organizers year after year?
To me, Mutek has been a reference; ever since I was a teenager I’ve followed the festival and been [to it.] There, I listened to musicians who have influenced my work, so I feel proud that I’ve participated in different formats in various editions. The fact that I get to work with young people and during their first experiences around the festival was for me the main factor that made me agree to be part of the workshop.

How do you think teaching music and production feeds your career as a musician?
I’ve sometimes taught classes related to music and audio engineering. I’ve worked in different platforms, and it’s a job from which I profit in several ways. Being in touch with people with different perspectives and tricks makes you learn and keeps you up-to-date. It’s hard to find a balance between your academic life and your job as an artist, though; in that sense, the support from the educational institutions is important. I think for any teacher, academic or technical, it’s very important to be active in the industry, although not all institutions share that vision.

Catch the Translaciones ensemble’s live performance on November 25 at the Tamayo Museum, during Mutek.Mx’s closing ceremony, presented by Red Bull Music Academy and Hennessy Very Special. Mutek.MX takes place on November 22-25, 2017 in Mexico City. To purchase tickets, click here