The Ponderers: Ceci Bastida

Tijuana is a very detached city, right on the border, away from the rest of Mexico. For many years it was well known by its violence and drug traffic path. Nowadays that could be a misconception, or at least there is much more of a truth to discover. I haven’t had the privilege to step in that city, but it has become an eclectically creative zone, where the most prominent musical concepts have flourished because of the accessibility of new technologies, and the proximity to the United States and its influence. The richness of all the local sounds produce a fusion of whimsical rhythms such as the nortec sounds or the most current, ruidoson. Being part of a border city makes you part of biculturalism, no different than being a first or second generation of immigrants in the United States, developing a sensibility towards socio-political problems and a passion for creative evolution.

A very amazing singer and songwriter emerged from this surreal place, Ceci Bastida. She started her musical career at a very young age with one of the most famed punk-ska bands from the ’90s, Tijuana NO!, where she emphasized her interest for social injustice. For eight years she shadowed Julieta Venegas, to whom she attributes her song structures and esthetics.

The core of many of her lyrics flows with a social critique since her beginnings at Tijuana NO! as a The Clash fan reproducing Spanish Bombs “Spanish weeks in my disco casino/ the freedom fighters died upon the hill/ they sang the red flag, they wore the black one/ but after they died it was Mockingbird Hill…”, “La Migra” or “Pobre de tí.” Once a solo artist, in her debut album Veo la Marea (2010), she made an impact with her single “Have You Heard?,” a satire against Mexican Pres. Felipe Calderón’s war on drugs in Mexico. The song is a melodrama where youth matures reenacting a vicious circle of violence: “Narco, Narco, have you heard?/ Drugs and money gonna kill the world/ Dollar’s green and border’s red/ why so many gotta end up dead?” Her most recent single “Una vez más” from her second album, La edad de la Violencia (2014), where she clearly expresses her worries over the killings in American schools.

Despite Bastida’s graphic content, and as strong as they seem to be, her lyrics are not negative but reflective and she definitely made sure that came across in La Edad de la Violencia. A mother-to-be gave thought to the world her child will be growing and her rhythms are the perfect balance to that thought. With consciousness she combines everything in a delightful way> Her music has been always upbeat, danceable and fresh, passing through rock, electronica, hip-hop, synth-pop, and it goes further as she plays with the surrounding elements.

Contributing musicians on the album are Lilly Aycud (trumpet, percussion, background vocals), Danny Levin (trombone, keys, background vocals, percussion), Jessica Fagre-Perry (bass, background vocals) and Argel Cota (drums). The producers are Luke Top (Fool’s God) and Alex Epton, better known as XXXChange. And Bastida’s repertory of past and present featured artists stretches from several duos with her endearing friend Julieta Venegas on Ven (Beautiful), a song dedicated to her little daughter Yamila, and on La Sofi (a Rita Indiana cover). She also collaborates with American rapper Rye Rye on “Have You Heard?,” as well as with with Mexican hip-hop artist Niña Dioz on “Empieza a Amanecer”.

With La Edad de la Violencia, Ceci aims to awaken the direction of our society through sounds and the atmospherics of her music. Even if her song topics are serious, she wants the music to move you. She wants you to feel empowered, and to realize the rhythm inside of you.

Ceci Bastida comes back to Chicago to delight us with her new album “La Edad de la Violencia” at Celebrate Clark Street World Music Festival, Saturday July 19, 7pm.

Stephanie Manriquez is part of the music enthusiast duo “The Ponderers’’. Check out their music selection on Mixcloud, Twitter and every second Wednesday of the Month at Harbees in Pilsen.