Music Interviews
5:12 am
Sun July 27, 2014

Ceci Bastida: Punk Roots, Pop Sounds And A Political Mind

Originally published on Sun July 27, 2014 8:26 am

La Edad de la Violencia — "the age of violence" — is a pretty dire name for an album of upbeat synth-pop. Tijuana-born singer Ceci Bastida says that's the point: She was pregnant when she began writing her latest set of songs, and found her joy tempered with concern about raising a child in a violent world. Bastida spoke about the origins of the album with NPR's Arun Rath; hear their conversation at the audio link.

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Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

It's sad to say, but when you listen to our news, the age of violence feels like an apt title for the world today. It's also the English translation of this Ceci Bastida's new album, "La Edad De La Violencia."

(SOUNDBITE OF ALBUM, "LA EDAD DE LA VIOLENCIA")

CECI BASTIDA: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: Now if that doesn't sound like sad music to you, it's because Bastida says she wants the sound to clash with the words. Ceci Bastida grew up in Mexico, but she lives in Los Angeles now. Her music has always been serious and political, going all the way back to when she sang at in Tijuana punk band at the age of 15. Ceci Bastida wrote most of her new album when she was pregnant with her first child. I asked her what drove her to write an album entitled "The Age Of Violence."

BASTIDA: I'm thinking about Mexico and I'm thinking about the U.S., as well. I think mainly those two countries - even though I think about the world in general, I think about the U.S. because I live here now, and I have a daughter who is going to grow up here. So it was very important to me to understand what was happening here, top.

RATH: And what were the sort of events that were running through your mind as you came up with this?

BASTIDA: My concern with the U.S. had to do school shootings. And I wrote a song called "Una Vez Mas" basically talking about that because I think as parents, we think about schools as a place for them to be safe and protected. And when you see that that's not going to happen or that that's not necessarily the case all the time, it's really scary. So it's hard for me to sort of not pay attention to that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNA VEZ MAS")

BASTIDA: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: You started in the Mexican punk music scene. And I think a lot of our audience might not be too familiar with the Mexican punk scene. Can you describe what it was like?

BASTIDA: The band was Tijuana No! And we started in 1989. So that was a really, really long time ago. Back then, you know, in 1994, that's when the Zapatista Movement started in Mexico. That's when NAFTA passed. So there were so many things that were happening politically in our country -corruption which is, you know, still happening. Mexico is a very, very corrupt country, unfortunately, still. But I think it kind of made everybody wake up even if it was for several years because right now it doesn't seem to be as strong. You now, musicians aren't necessarily talking about these things as much. But I think in the beginnings of the '90s and '94 especially, everybody felt very inspired.

RATH: And are we still hearing some punk in this music?

BASTIDA: I don't think so. You know, I played with that punk band when I was 15. I started when I was 15. And I'm happy that I don't sound the way I sounded when I was 15. But I think I'm a little bit more subtle. With that band, we tended to be very direct and very - you know, the government's awful. I try to not be as obvious. But I think lyrically I do have a little bit of Tijuana No! in me.

RATH: And you've got a lovely voice. But when you were a punk, where you doing more of the kind of screams - screaming singing?

(LAUGHTER)

BASTIDA: You know what? I think I was the softer side of the band. 'Cause we had three singers. One of them really, really screamed. And I was the like sort of balance.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIJUANA NO! SONG)

BASTIDA: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: I hate asking song writers to explain their songs, but I feel justified when the song is in Spanish 'cause I don't speak Spanish. So the song "Cuervo" - I read the song was inspired by the metaphysical novel "Kafka On The Shore" by Haruki Murakami.

BASTIDA: Yes.

RATH: How on earth do you get a song out of that?

BASTIDA: I know. You know, it's funny because when I first read him, I was really excited about his writing. And I know that it's a strange book, and sometimes people might think that it's a hard book to connect with necessarily.

RATH: It's about, actually, about Kafka as a teenager, right? A young teenager.

BASTIDA: Yes. A young teenager that's been accused of killing his father. And he has to flee the city. And he's in search of his mother who had left when he was very little and his sister as well. So it's a strange thing. There is killings and there's kidnappings. And it's just a very interesting and bizarre book.

RATH: Let's hear a little bit of "Cuervo."

BASTIDA: OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CUERVO")

BASTIDA: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: Can you do a little translation for us?

BASTIDA: It's just saying that he's going to leave the city. And he's going to go to a library because that's where he is going to find her. And he is going to stay there until she loves him.

RATH: So you're in Los Angeles now. You started your musical career in Mexico. How did you get to where you are now?

BASTIDA: I come from a city. I was born in Tijuana which is the border. And, you know, I grew up there most of my life. And it's a city that I'm very connected to. It's a city where I saw people cross the border every day. So, you know, there's a relationship between the U.S. and Mexico inside of me since I was a little girl. And then I moved to Mexico City. But when I decided to leave Mexico City, I thought the best city for me would be LA because it's so close to Tijuana. I'm able to go back. And at the same time, it doesn't feel foreign at all. You know, it's a city where there's such a huge Latino presence. So it always felt like a natural place to be.

RATH: You know, we're talking about the sort of easy exchange between America and Mexico. You know, it makes me think that - it feels like things have changed. You know, obviously with the current issues around the border, the politics in this country. Does it feel like that was almost a different time?

BASTIDA: It really does. When I was growing up crossing the border, I was fortunate to be able to do it. And we would cross it very quickly. And after 9/11 things, really started changing where, you know, crossing the border became very, very difficult. For people to get papers, to get, you know, tourist visa got a little bit harder. So yeah, it definitely changed the relationship that we had with the U.S. Now when I was growing up it was a great experience for me to be able to, you know, see bands in San Diego that I would never get to see in Mexico. So it was a great thing. Now things are very, very, very different.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALBUM, "THE AGE OF VIOLENCE")

BASTIDA: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: Ceci Bastida's new album is "The Age Of Violence." Thanks for joining us.

BASTIDA: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALBUM, "THE AGE OF VIOLENCE")

BASTIDA: (Singing in Spanish).

RATH: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Arun Rath. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.