Round the World in 80 Sounds – Latintronica

Welcome back to Gadling’s newest weekly series on music, Round the World in 80 Sounds. Europe and North America are not the only place for great dance music these days. Increasingly music fans, DJ’s and dancers the world over are looking south of the border to the dynamic and growing electronic music scenes in countries like Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. The forward-thinking sounds coming from these countries are strongly rooted in traditions of the past, blending local folk music styles with modern instruments and techniques to create a distinctly modern hybrid. It’s an energetic, fun and authentic musical experience any curious traveler will want to check out on your next visit.

The genre of electronic music began in American cities like Detroit and Chicago in the 80’s, springing to life as the Disco scene began to fade. Ever since, the music has been a fixture in the North American and European nightlife scenes. But it’s taken longer for the music to take root in the rest of the world. Only in the last 10 years have home-grown electronic music scenes started to blossom in regions like Asia, Africa and particularly in Latin America. In Argentina, a style called Digital Cumbia has risen to the fore, while in Mexico bands like Nortec Collective infuse traditional Mexican Norteño music with modern style. Meanwhile in Brazil, a slew of artists like Gui Borrato are bringing electronic music to a growing army of fans.

Ready to open your ears to one of Latin America’s most interesting musical trends? Keep reading below…Digital Cumbia in Argentina
Call it whatever you want – Electronic Cumbia, Digital Cumbia or just plain fun – the fact remains: a steady stream of good times and great music has been broadcasting from Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires now for several years. Centered around the city’s now-legendary Zizek Club, it’s a new musical movement based around Cumbia, a traditional South American musical style featuring strong rhythms and instruments like Claves, accordions and drums. Electronic Cumbia takes this traditional style to the next level, injecting it with synthesizers, hip-hop beats and gangster-style rhymes. Check out the video below and make sure to visit one of Zizek’s weekly parties the next time you make it to Buenos Aires.

Norteno and Mexican Techno
For Americans, Tijuana is not much more than a hedonistic border town. A place for those looking for a night of entertainment and cheap prescription drugs. But as it turns out, there’s a lot more going on south of the border these days, including a thriving music scene. A collection of DJ’s and producers call Tijuana home, tapping into Northern Mexico’s vast wealth of Norteno music for inspiration.

Norteño, a style of Mexican “polka” with lots of noisy horns and plenty of strong rhythms, has gotten a modern rework by Mexican electronic acts like Nortec Collective, who remake Norteño with a into a uniqeuly modern style. Along with Mexico City-based musician Mexican Institute of Sound, these artists are part of a growing electronic music movement based on Mexico. Check out this 2005 tribute to Tijuana by Nortec Collective:

Brazil’s Exploding Pop Scene
Of all the great music happening these days in Latin and South America, none is as dynamic as the exploding music scene in Brazil. Considering Brazil’s long and rich musical history, from Bossa Nova to Samba and Caetano Veloso, the current wave of innovation comes as no surprise.

Electro Rock bands like Cansei de Ser Sexy (CSS) have earned consistent international attention, with their catchy, danceable rock sound. In the realm of dance music, Brazilian producer and DJ Gui Boratto has been rocking the international club scene since 2007. These Brazilian electronic music innovators take their cues less from traditional Brazilian sounds, instead applying a distinct Brazilian interpretation to the global music scenes abroad in Europe, North America and beyond. Have a listen to Boratto’s 2007 single, “Beautiful Life:”

A Mexican traveler’s money-saving tips

Headed to Mexico on a budget? Then you’re headed to the right place. In my experience, Mexican businesses and their employees are some of the friendliest and most service oriented people I’ve met, so you should take advantage of the freebies they’re usually willing to offer to visitors. A couple of years ago I started exploring the country of my ancestors, usually with a friend for company. Here are a few of the money saving tips I learned during my travels to Mexico City, Monterrey, and San Luis Potosi.

Take advantage of the free rides some nice restaurants will offer you back to your hotel
My friend and I discovered this service in Mexico City late one night after dinner and drinks at an Argentine steakhouse. We asked our server if the restaurant could call a cab, and instead he offered us the use of the restaurant’s car and driver. We gave the driver a reasonable tip and saved ourselves the cost of a cab fare. This service isn’t available at every restaurant, but all you have to do is ask to find out.

Don’t be afraid of street food
Sure, we splurged at that Argentine restaurant, but my friend and I also ate a lot of our meals on the side of the road, where you can get a hearty, delicious, and inexpensive meal at a food cart. Believe me, it was not easy convincing my friend that street food is safe and delicious. In San Luis Potosi, I finally convinced him to try a street vendor’s gorditas, which are fat tortillas that are split open and stuffed with meats and cheeses. When we were headed home, he admitted it was the best meal he had the entire trip, and it only cost us a couple of dollars!

Keep reading for more tips below…
Visit free admission museums
They’re everywhere, especially in Monterrey and Mexico City. I couldn’t believe how many museums are gratis, while I pay to get into most museums in the U.S. These attractions are a great way to learn more about the local history and culture. You might be approached by a museum guide, but you probably don’t need to hire one. Most of the Mexican museums I’ve been to are visitor friendly, with written explanations in Spanish and English for each exhibit. A word of caution: get there early. Some museums in Mexico close as early as 4pm.

Grab a free city map and guide instead of buying one
Some cities, including San Luis Potosi and Monterrey, have great tourist information centers. San Luis Potosi has one in the town square, and Monterrey has a couple of them in the bus station. Just ask for the oficina de turismo. It shouldn’t be too hard to find one, and they offer free maps and attraction guides in English, handed out by friendly greeters.

Skip the overpriced hotel breakfast
Many hotels in Mexico offer breakfast, but if it isn’t free, then skip it. The one time I ate at a hotel the food was okay, but overpriced and not so traditionally Mexican. Instead, I suggest hitting the streets to find a panaderia, a bakery where you can buy pan dulce, or traditional Mexican sweet bread. Throw in a cup of Mexican hot chocolate or coffee and you’ve got a quick, inexpensive breakfast. Yum!

Use public transportation instead of a taxi whenever possible
When we visited Mexico City, we decided to take a day trip to Xochimilco, a borough of the city that’s known for its series of canals that tourists and locals travel by boat. We could have taken a cab, but we were told it would cost us around $30. Instead we took the light rail train, which connects to the city’s metro system. It took us a little longer to get to Xochimilco, but we took in the landscape along the way, and it cost us less than $5 round trip.

Book your flight through a Mexican airline
Okay, this tip isn’t for everyone, but if, like me, you live in South Texas or another area near the border, this could work. When I was headed to Mexico City, I had a friend drop me off at an airport near the border in Reynosa, Mexico. If you don’t have anyone to drive you into Mexico, take a taxi or a bus to the airport. My plane ticket from Reynosa to Mexico City cost less than $300 on Mexicana, a reputable airline. Compared to the fares I found on several U.S. airlines, that saved me at least $200.

Shop around for a cash exchange rate

Casas de cambio,
or cash exchange houses, are everywhere. Especially in tourist hot spots, you should look around for the best rate. Use an exchange house instead of a bank and you’ll be out of there with your cash more quickly and easily.


Hilton’s Valentine’s Day deal for Latin America: Do not disturb

Sometimes, the best service is none at all. With the “Do Not Disturb” getaways for Valentine’s Day, you’ll check into any number of hotels in the Caribbean or Latin America, and there will be plenty of people who will be happy to leave you alone. Check in early, if you like, and disappear for a while, and you can arrange for late checkout, too.

Don’t get me wrong — the “Do Not Disturb” package includes all kinds of amenities that are sure to turn you on. You’ll sip sparkling wine or cider in your room and occasionally head down to the health club, pool or whirlpool spa to stretch out and move your body … when you’re not moving your body in your room. You’ll also pick up breakfast every day in the hotel’s restaurant, and on extra nights, you’ll enjoy a free entrée with each meal you buy (as long as the second is of equal or lesser value).

There are plenty of hotels available, including the completely renovated Colonial Hilton Nassau in the Bahamas, the Hilton Cartagena in Colombia and the Hilton Mexico City Reforma. Just be sure to use booking code RP.

Frommer’s lists Top Destinations for 2010

Frommer’s has just released their list of what they think will be the top destinations for 2010. Culled from the suggestions of industry insiders and readers, the list covers every continent, meandering from India to Hawaii, Argentina to Vietnam. Along with listing each place, Frommer’s has also given reasons why each one should be on your list of destinations for the coming year.

How accurate is the list? Last year, the top destinations predicted for 2009 included Washington, DC; Cartagena, Colombia; Istanbul; Cape Town; and Berlin, all of which were popular with tourists, as they have been for several years. Including Berlin may have been a no-brainer. As the 20th anniversary of the falling of the Berlin Wall took place this year, of course the city would be well-visited. Other locations predicted to be hotspots have remained in relative obscurity. How many people do you know who went to Waiheke Island (New Zealand) or followed the Civil Rights Trail in Alabama?

2010’s list will probably be equally hit and miss when it comes to predicting the hot spots for the year. Included on the list is the Big Island of Hawaii, which I recently visited. Frommer’s says the Big Island has everything you need but still retains an untouched feel, and I completely agree.

But other destinations might not rise to the top of many travelers’ lists. Frommer’s says Mexico City will be big in 2010, but unfortunately the city may still suffer from the after-effects of swine flu paranoia. Cuba, another location on the list, isn’t open to Americans yet, but may see an increase in tourists from other countries. And lesser-known destinations, like Kerala, India; Tunisia; and the Isles of Scilly in England may see a boost in tourism thanks to the publicity they receive from the list.

** Be sure to check out Gadling’s picks for the top adventure destinations for 2010. **


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AeroMexico plane hijacking resolved peacefully

Shortly after taking off from Cancun on Wednesday, the pilots of AeroMexico flight 737 radioed the control tower to say the plane had been hijacked. The hijacker had showed off a bomb (later found to be fake) and demanded to speak to Mexican President Felipe Calderon. He threatened to blow up the plane, which was carrying over 100 people, and said he needed to warn the President of an impending earthquake.

The hijacker was unable to get into the cockpit, and the plane landed safely in Mexico City, its intended destination. After the plane landed and taxied to a part of the runway designated for emergencies, passengers deplaned, and security forces boarded. They quickly apprehended who they thought were the nine hijackers, but it later became clear that there was only one, Bolivian-born Jose Flores, 44, who told police he was a Protestant Minister and that “it was a divine revelation that made him carry out his actions.” The other suspects, innocent passengers caught up in the confusion, were released.

Most of the passengers had no idea that the hijacking was even taking place until it was over, and no one was injured in the incident. This was Mexico‘s first major hijacking situation since 1972.

[via Washington Post]