Ritualistic soundscapesfrom one of the leading figures in Mexican ambient music.
As ambient music continues to rise in popularity in the United States and around the world, we thought we’d take a look at one of the lesser known pioneers of the genre. In the ’80s, while most early ambient experimentalists like Brian Eno, Laurie Spiegel, and Suzanne Ciani were focusing on modern technology (computers, synthesizers, electronic instruments, etc.) to create their calm-inducing soundscapes, one artist looked to acoustic instruments from the past to create a new sound.
Jorge Reyes, born in Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico, began his musical education at the National School of Music in Mexico where he studied flute and played in several influential bands. His studies would take him around the world to explore various styles of music in Germany, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Himalayas, and Sri Lanka. These experiences with different musical instruments from around the world would eventually lead him back to his roots in Mexico and the pre-Colombian musical traditions of Mexican Native Americans.
Reyes’ debut album Ek-Tunkul (1983) is a unique fusion of ambient, world music, and progressive rock combining native Mexican acoustic instruments including the Mayan tunkul with modern instruments (electric guitar, synthesizer, sampler) along with flute, mandolin, kalimba, voice, and field recordings. His second album A La Izquierda Del Colibrí (1986), a collaboration with Antonio Zepeda, further expanded on these ideas paying homage to Reyes’ ancestry and heritage. The album obtained an honorable mention by the Science Academy of the, then, USSR for its contribution to the Latin American Musical genre.
Reyes would go on to become a leading figure in contemporary Mexican ambient music and collaborate with musicians from around the world including American synthesist Steve Roach, Spanish guitarist Suso Saiz, Mexican singer and multi-instrumentalist Arturo Meza (of the band Decibel), Mexican percussionist Juan Carlos López, German synthesist Elmar Schulte (of the band Solitaire), Deep Forest, and others.
Check out this episode of Marius-Christian Burcea’s Journeys to the Infinite podcast which celebrates Jorge Reyes and features an interview with Steve Roach.