N.A.A.F.I is the party revolutionising dance music in Mexico

What started four years ago as a club night focused on putting forward new ideas in dance music in Mexico City, has grown into a whole musical community. N.A.A.F.I has become the name that guarantees a good party in the D.F., as well as a record label...

by Monse Castera
07 August 2014, 6:20pm

The Mexican crew that creates the local rhythm.

N.A.A.F.I is a way of life in Mexico City, from the trends to the rhythms. We spoke to Mexican Jihad and tried to figure out what makes N.A.A.F.I the musical project and the Mexican party with the best personality.

From the beginning N.A.A.F.I was characterised by its ability to find talent within the country, from cities that didn't necessarily have a nightlife or club culture. How did you find these people?
All of the people that were in N.A.A.F.I, which initially was Tomás Davó, Paul Marmota, Lauro Robles (Lao) and I, found all of this talent in the same way that we did to find music for our sets. The idea that in order to have a night in Mexico City you have to bring someone from outside of the country is such a stupid idea. We have to support what we have because it is what is responding to the context within which we live our lives. To be honest, we mostly found these artists on Soundcloud. When we invite someone to play, we talk a lot about music with them. For example, Kingdom was just here, and he told us what he is listening to and what he finds interesting. Not only are we interested in people that make music and are dedicated to nightlife, but we are also interested in people that do the same things as us but under different contexts, like the promoters or the record labels; this allows N.A.A.F.I to be influenced by different people. 

What defines the talent that is part of N.A.A.F.I? What does peripheral rhythms means?
Peripheral Rhythms was the subtitle that we use for the party in the beginning, because we believed it enclosed the idea of what we wanted to communicate. It represents what is happening on the border of things, musically but also within the city and society. For example, it's a person that is often weird but very confident and takes risks, who is doing things that they normally wouldn't find immediate support for, but it is something that resonates with them. I believe something that characterises these projects is that they aren't necessarily trying to sell themselves as something Latin or as something Mexican - the people that are a part of N.A.A.F.I are not interested in this, the Latin aspect of a culture, or this segmentation. I think the definition is that they are local. 

So what is the difference between something that is Mexican, and something that is local?
Something that is local may not necessarily sound like it's from here, and it may reference other things. It doesn't have to be Cumbia, or local music, in a literal sense. Something local is something that resonates because it's coming from where you are and from what you are living. 

You went to L.A. recently - how were you received there?
The relationship that N.A.A.F.I has with L.A. or with California is interesting, there is definitely a stronger dialogue with them, which maybe related to the amount of immigration there is between the cultures, many Mexican musicians that create cool things, or that make it in the industry, end up moving to California. I think the other thing about the other east coast of the United States is that they have an intellectual relationship with industries that are a bit more pretentious. In California, people receive N.A.A.F.I very well, they already know us through the internet, and we have also invited various L.A based people to come to the parties in D.F. Like Zakmatic, a very young guy that we have been working with. The people from Fade To Mind are a family that we have been working with for a while. Total Freedom is a figure that has influenced many of the people that are a part of N.A.A.F.I, and internationally there is this interest for the Mexican moment in various creative industries. 

You have also done some parties with similar projects in New York, like Venus X's GHE20GH0T1K.
Venus X is an incredibly interesting person, very straightforward with her politics about club nights, identity, cultural production, and the market. She's someone that pushing many boundaries. We invited her to play a few years ago when we were very much into her GHE20GH0T1K aesthetic/ party and she's invited to come in the fall of this year. We haven't actually been to New York yet, all of the invites we have received to play in New York have had a particularly curious context for us being Latin and Mexican and we would really like to play at a party that doesn't emphasis this. 

What other cities do you have a relationship with? We know that Mexican Jihad has been asked to do shows in Europe.
As Mexican Jihad I made a few selections for a magazine called Junk Jet. Espectral is another DJ that plays in Europe often, he is very much into sound design and things like that. Siete Catorce recently came back from a tour in Europe. I think there is a big interest for many of the N.A.A.F.I acts in Eastern Europe. 

Which international projects specifically is NA.A.F.I interested in?
People that operate and have the same values as us, for example HER Records in England are doing very interesting things, they have a very comfortable and cheeky way of doing things and that is very cool, mainly because people take music very seriously in England, perhaps too seriously. CocoBass is one of the most important labels in Latin America, if not the most important. From the very beginning they have supported acts that I find very interesting, acts that later grow and mature. We also like Night Slugs, they make club music that is not necessarily digestible, more mechanical and synthetic. We are really into Mixpak's Dancehall Pop. LitCity and GG in New York, F2M, Moustache Mondays in Los Angeles, I don't think all are labels, but rather communities, spaces, and crews. 

How was N.A.A.F.I's leap from house parties to playing in the Vive Latino Festival?
Although Mexico is huge and the economies are very large, in the end the music industry is a small scene. Therefore, people that program the line up for festivals like Vive Latino, are people that dance at our parties. Eventually they dared to include us. But ,aybe festivals are not what Mexican music needs at the time; instead there is a need for a constant space. 

So, kind of like a club?
Yes, in order for this music to grow, it's important to have smaller spaces and not so much this festival sensibility. I think festivals work to get to a larger audience, but the development of this music, or of the rhythms that we like in club music, are something small and that is what keeps it at a constant marginal state. 

How do you control a marginal state when you earn fame?
That depends on each project, how it builds itself. Within N.A.A.F.I there are acts focused on their artistic growth, and there are other people who are searching for something different, who have more formal interests, want to transmit ideas and are more interested in the construction of situations. 

What would you consider your biggest success?
I think what I would most like to show off about N.A.A.F.I is the type of spaces where it has happened. We have been opportunists in the way we stage parties, playing at monuments charged with political significance like the Estela de Luz, galleries, posh clubs and downtown pubs. N.A.A.F.I's biggest success as a night is the moment where distinctions are no longer made and a true party is created. The D.F. nightlife suffers quite a lot from classism and the spaces are very segmented. It's something cool about N.A.A.F.I that it is a very free space. 

Most of the people that are a part of N.A.A.F.I live the city in a very particular way, is this true?
That is very interesting now that you mention it. We are definitely a crew that appreciates a more direct relationship with our surroundings. I think you have to be very close to the street if you want to stay up to date and be aware of what is happening. That is something we enjoy. Following trends that we see downtown, seeing the way street fashion is worn, we find all of this very nurturing. 



Text Monse Castera
Photography David Franco
Stylist Victor Barragan

mexico city
Mexican Jihad
Monse Castera
music interviews
david franco
victor barragan