Mexico City has been a place where artists from all over the world settle in to build their life and career. Many of those producing music there have gained an international following since times unknown. The great thing about places like Mexico City is that something new is always brewing up, and for every artist that has broken out to the world, there’s a few dozen building their followings and refining their approach to music. Some of them are quite good at what they’re doing.
Here we present a list of artists hailing from the city that have been working in the independent scene for quite a while. It’s also worth noting that the label “independent” can be nebulous at best, so in order to compile this list, we were determined to find bands truly working in the margins. Most of the artists in this article are not affiliated with a record label, and those who are usually are small record labels without a PR department. Likewise, it’s probable that some of these musicians have played festivals but are not regulars at these kinds of events; they probably have made very few trips outside the country as well.
There’s much more to explore regarding Mexican underground music and most cities in the country have healthy and active scenes, and we urge you to do some exploring of your own.
Below, find just 10 of the numerous musicians doing amazing work. This is by no means a definitive list (you may know plenty of others that belong here), but we’re sure you’ll find something you like here.
Beginning as a garage band from the outskirts of Mexico City, El Shirota evolved with a pair of self-titled records released in 2016 and 2018 in which they explored different branches of noise, such as psych, krautrock, black metal and ‘90s alternative. Their efforts have led to a session with influential radio station KEXP and slots on important festivals like Nrmal. Now, they are gearing up for their first international show at Seattle’s Freakout festival in November.
Starting as a folk-inspired solo project of Mexico City singer-songwriter Israel Ramírez, Belafonte Sensacional has changed dramatically to become one of the country’s most exciting musical outfits. Ramírez’s evocative lyrics are set to music that takes elements from rock urbano, punk rock, psych and other strays of experimental music. Their live show is one of the most powerful in the scene, with the eight-member band setting venue after venue on fire.
Part of the punk revival that has made its mark in Mexico, Riña are an especially fierce outfit fueled by their hatred for misogyny and the patriarchy. Their brand of punk is not just distorted and raging, but rather has a very distinctive melodic vent as it can be heard on their debut EP and Aquí No Eres Nadie, a 7-inch released through Living Thrilling Records and World Gone Mad.
Ojo Por Ojo
Central to the punk explosion currently sweeping the country is Cintas Pepe, an influential label that has put out records by Riña, Cremalleras and Tercer Mundo, among others. Yecatl Peña is synonymous with Cintas Pepe, and his musical output has been as influential, having played in bands, such as Inservibles, Mujercitos and Muerte. His latest frantic punk outfit, Ojo Por Ojo, features former members of Nazareno El Violento, and it’s an ugly and delightful listen.
Fervent believers of the DIY ethos, Vyctoria have booked two Central American tours as well as a trek through Europe and a small east coast run that culminated in the recording of their second album with Efrim Menuck of Godspeed You! Black Emperor fame, all booked and arranged by themselves. Musically, they explore and refine an unclassifiable sound that ranges from the mood of post-rock to the heaviness of doom metal.
Artist and activist Luisa Almaguer is one of the most important figures linking underground music with trans visibility. Luisa hosts a radio show called La Hora Trans where she gives voice to members of her community. Her music, on the other hand, is not a call to arms but rather a deeply personal window of expression where passion and love reside, draped in a sound that could be described as experimental pop that is as satisfying as it is passionate, as heard on her latest EP, MATARONOMATAR.
To characterize Un reve as an ambient project is to do a disservice to the scope of the music presented by this Mexico City solo artist project. On his recording output, Un reve explores ethereal moods through tape manipulation and glitching loops, bringing to mind the dreaminess of shoegaze, with the fragile beauty of the work of William Basinski.
One of the most expressive electronic producers in Mexico doing music guided only by his quest for doing something unique, Mondragón began musical life as a bedroom ambient project. Eventually, it hit the stage as a band and became a hybrid techno-post rock outfit, before breaking up. Now under his full name, Edgar has been prolific, dropping four projects since 2018 – the latest being Nova, a more beat-oriented collection of songs that don’t sacrifice ambiance.
Starting as a regular post-rock band, Sunset Images quickly evolved into a mostly instrumental psychedelic/noise/rock act done by Samuel Osorio and a revolving cast of drummers. The band has released ever noisier and exciting albums, including Obscure Haze, their latest and most accomplished album, in which Osorio played all the instruments (save the drums), as he does live as well.
Paulina Lasa has been around the music scene for quite a few years, playing with outfits like Pau y sus Amigos and Haciendo El Mal, playing great if conventional music. Everything changed when she decided to record as Nima Ikki, an electronic project built for deep listening, where improvisation leads the music to build rooms of unexpected beauty and fury in the span of several minutes.