Who is His Majesty? … the one who gets naked on stage and spits at the audience. And why should we care about this vagrant? He is referred to as a drunk, elegant dandy, womanizer and an icon… but who is he? And – more importantly – who supports his music?
He comes from Chilpancingo, Guerrero in Mexico according to Bernice Balboa and his music has spread to Spain, Germany and England. The genre of this controversial character is electronic “era of the caves, a computer music made with a little subtle and quite gross,” says the character in an interview tva.com.mx. His lyrics evoke “tantric sex mystic exactly” according to the same interview. He does not care though, he says. He is an egotistical musician who does not mind that a lot of people don’t accept him, he likes when people are offended and thinks it is one of the great pleasures we enjoy in life: to offend people. He says he likes to receive insults “with love and devotion,” perhaps signifying that he is a very free-minded individual or perhaps that he is just a little bit wild.
His DJ name is Silverio, most famously known by his hit Yepa-Yepa-Yepa (he’s not that bullfighter guy you may get by googling the name). We care about him because of his affiliation with the relatively new label Nuevos Ricos (“new rich”) since their start in 2003. The name Nuevos Ricos comes from composer Julian Lede and artist Carlos Amorales wanting to change their social and economic situation in Mexico City by creating an aspiring cult label project. Their motto “Income doesn’t mean happiness but who wants to be happy?” plays on their ironic wish to become rich and famous while still responding against the current state of the art world where the rich and famous get richer and more famous. Julian and Carlos say that people in the US wouldn’t understand their name because “we” are a part of the noveau riche ourselves (“In Gold We Trust” they say).They work with highly electric sounds- cumbia electronics, neo-romantic rock, disco punk and noisist avant garde to name a few of their subversive sounding protest art called musical expression.
Silverio comes into play when the label declared that they were concerned with the audience being able to brake loose and become a part of the performance. Much like pop artist Ed Kienholz whose works of art both invited and implicated the viewer, Nuevos Ricos artists are questioning and celebrating the audience at the same time. Silverio gets away with his spitting and nakedness because Nuevos Ricos thinks of performance space as a raw place of transformance during concerts. They put the stage at the same level as the dance floor to make artist and audience on the same level quite literally. This engagement with the audience is a new idea that has arisen out of movements such as the Egyptian revolution a year ago – where normal people with good voices or musical proclivities became huge stars with their revolutionary songs just by the mere fact of playing in front of an audience of their peers. The importance of Silverio in the context of his producers, Nuevos Ricos is that his music is “blowing up” so to speak and this is furthering their goal to become rich and famous. But can they stay that way? Before we discuss that lets look at some of Silverio’s music to see what he is all about
Let’s take a look at some of his work to see what the heck it is all about.
1. El Iluminado (The Illiminated, or Lit)
How can a guy without pants on get away with a song mainly based on a clapping and drumming rhythm filmed in front of pornographic images of women? Free speech baby. At one point, he unzips his pants to reveal a golden light – how inappropriate! BY showing sped up images of naked women he may be commenting on the subversive nature of societal depictions of women – that perhaps all women are objectified and can be seen in this pornographic light. Censorship of music has been widely discussed in terms of all DJ artists because of the way that they take songs and appropriate them, and in context of YouTube “ruining” the music industry by posting free music online. This will be discussed more later. To put the song in context, it is a Latin single released in 2009. Latin music, according to “onlylyrics.com” includes the following genres: Latin Music, Spanish, Latin Pop, Reggaeton, Salsa, Bachata, Merengue, Caribbean, Tropical, Cumbia, Flamenco, Grupero, Regional Mexican, Rock En Espanol, Tejano. His music seems to come more from a rock, head banger tradition though in my opinion. On YouTube it is called electro punk and the video inspires a rave-y mosphit of people. I chose this piece because of it showing the stage on the ground, the rave inspiring nature of the music and the way in which the video could be censored.
2. Yepa Yepa Yepa (nonsensical)
I chose this video because it again shows him interacting with audience, to the point of a crowd of girls surrounding him and touching him. He also plays up his usual sexual connotations by grabbing his crotch for a few seconds in the youtube video. Its sound is calmer than El Iliminado in that its beat is steady, despite a few piercing screams throughout. In the second video, below, he is again interacting with the crowd in that he is not up on a platform. Nuevos Ricos seeks to be the anti-noveau riche while still becoming rich and famous and one of the ways that they do that is by placing their artists on the same level as the audience – to physically and metaphorically put them on the same plain. Also, the use of the word Yepa comments on Silverio’s name because Silverio Peréz, a Puerto Rican show host among other different careers (according to Wikipedia), said it on live TV. Silverio shows this clip in his video as well. Yepa is a nonsense word that probably means Yeah! Lets go! In the sense that we use it in the United States
3. El Baile del Diablo (The dance of the devil)
This song is what plays when you open up Nuevos Ricos’ website. I picked it because of the strange sounds throughout and the fact that it was so highly promoted by Nuevos Ricos. It is strangely hypnotic in its repetition, and just when you get exhausted of the repetition an ultrasound-type sound comes on and then a low growly sound appears. The whole time, a sort of Batman-esque soundtrack plays underneath. I am not sure how the title relates to these sonic observations but it seems quite tame for something called the dance of the devil – one would imagine something much more violent than what is heard (in my mind). I am not sure of the historical context, but again, its importance is in that it is played when you open up Nuevos Ricos so they obviously want it to become a hit – and think it has the potential to get them rich and famous.
But are Silverio’s performances just plain trash? That calls up the question of what is art, what is music and what is acceptable. The famous “GG Allin” has a few words to say on that. His first point, though, is about the same “rich and famous” culture that Nuevos RIcos both embraces and abhors- he says he wants to declare war on record companies. Though Nuevos Ricos does not want to overthrow the system per say, they do want to come up with a new way of being rich and famous without adhering to the same old fat cat story. Nuevos Ricos supports Silverio’s performances and even encourages them. Yet, they are censored some of the time according to an earlier mentioned Mexican interview. There must be some reasoning behind that, because despite their cries that they are not the same as every other recording company, they still do say they want to become rich and famous. This brings us to the point of performance art.
Where is the line between performance art, DJing and a rave? What is acceptable and what should be policed and squashed down by “the man”? One arcile by Tobias van Veen says that its not dancing, its bodily expression. I believe that Silverio is participating in bodily expression too because of the way in which he dances – it is a particular style almost similar to aerobics where he modulates his body in a very specific pattern to the beat of his songs. Or he just jumps around and thrusts his pelvis, depending on how drunk he is at his performances according to the videos I watched. Van Veen insists that the rave culture has been associated with rebellious pop culture, but could the reverse be true too? Is Silverios rebellious nature such that it inspires a rave aesthetic to his crowds? From the videos it seems that this is such but Nuevos Ricos does not explicitly say that they condone this performance art-as-rave phenomenon. Would you call Silverio’s performances art? I wouldn’t as I think that art has to have some aesthetic purpose and his eff-you personality does not condone such a pointed statement about anything at all. But then again he does do the same thing every time- stripping down from an old-man suit (probably referencing Silverio Peréz, his supposed namesake and broadcasting star) into a red speedo and doing silly things like bulging out his paunchy stomach, spitting on the crowd, standing on the DJ table and other sexual acts as well.
Nuevos Ricos also do not explicitly outline what they believe to be “okay” to listen to and this is crucial to Silverio because of the explicit nature of his videos and his performances. When is it okay to censor music? To protect women’s rights and children’s ears from hearing profanity? If that were the case, the entire rap industry would crumble in seconds. TV channels refuse to show “Yepa Yepa Yepa,” according to guagamoleproject.com. Since I do not know the English translation of the lyrics, I cannot say why this is the case but it seems to be because of womanizing, sexual words since that is a vein that runs strongly through all of his performances. Along with a description that fits the earlier citations of Silverio as a “drunk, stylish, womanizing champion of the dance floor” there are many explicit pictures, shown above. Nuevos Ricos does not apparently care that his work is so explicit because they support him financially and promote his music. Perhaps they, too, are making a statement about what they believe art is by promoting him. Maybe they think that his style is groovy, maybe they think it is revolutionary but either way their promotion of him standing within the crowd on the same level instead of above them and protected by bodyguards is revolutionary.
TO THE POINT: Can Nuevos Ricos stay the way they want while being catapulted into stardom? From the looks of it, they can. Their artists have performed at Sonar, a very popular and highly mainstream electro music festival (well at least now its mainstream because I’ve been and I am definitely not the kind of person who finds underground things). And yet they still stick to their message of wanting to be against “the man” and all of the things that Hollywood music producers stand for in their “In Gold We Trust” statement (mentioned above). I have faith in Nuevos Ricos and believe that they can achieve their goals because of the artists that they support – they don’t support pop-y, going-to-be-a-hit artists they support off the beaten path weird artists who do things like strip and spit. For this reason I believe they can stick to at least some sort of non-mainstream type of production and not get woo’d into the kind of production like DJ Diplo was saying he got woo’d into with his collaboration with Beyonce.