For six years, Rodney Garcia played bass in Dukkha, one of about 20 roc en español bands based in the San Diego--Tijuana region.
"When the big labels saw the success of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and Café Tacuba, they started injecting a lot of money in roc en español." Garcia says the five major Mexican music companies signed a number of roc en español artists to their rosters in the '90s, but after five years of popularity, the movement lost traction in 2000.
"Interest was winding down. It was just the same formula over and over." Garcia says the major labels started dropping their roc en español artists, and radio stations such as Tijuana's More FM (98.9) dropped roc for hip-hop. "Because the labels weren't putting out new bands, stations like More FM didn't have new music to play. They weren't getting new listeners."
Garcia says overly dramatic lead vocals came to identify roc en español.
"The music was getting really cheesy. It was too emotional, too overdone. How many times can you hear someone whine about their girlfriend? We were, like, 'Just shut up and make us dance.' "
After Dukkha disbanded, Garcia and his singer Memo Rex formed Buddy Akai, an electro-rock dance band that mixes guitar, bass, and drums with electronic samples; it's a synth-pop sound similar to the Killers and the Bravery.
"Electronic music is booming in Mexico. We know kids want to rock, but we know they also want to dance.... We used to sing in Spanish. Now we sing in English. We thought the music sounded better in English."
Buddy Akai (named after the brand name of their sampler) has started playing at Iggy's, a four-year-old Rosarito dance mecca that until recently was known for hip-hop.
"We played at Iggy's three weeks ago with Kinky and Plastilina Mosh. We also play underground parties in Tijuana. That's where our friends rent out a house, a disco, or a warehouse and throw a party for anywhere between 600 and 1000 people."
Buddy Akai appears tonight at House of Blues.