Tepeme & the downtempo
music scene in Mexico

Jose Luis Cruz Tijerina
from Tepeme Música

The deep magic of mountains

Hello, my name is Jose aka Pol Balam. I am running the downtempo music label Tepeme Música in Mexico City. We are inspired by the feeling of discovering and sharing music with friends. Our label name derives from aztec mythology, meaning “the place where mountains come together”. And from my own experience i can say that they do.

Mountain Magic - the mexican landscapes.

How music has moved my life in Mexico

All my life I’ve been lucky enough to be around so many music enthusiasts. Starting with my father, who used to put headphones on my head when I was a kid and played Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I got into rock early in the school years. My serious journey into music discovery came when I moved to Juarez, border city of Mexico with El Paso, Texas. The clash of cultures in this city was special on all levels. I have good friends that introduced me to the world of underground hip hop, trip hop and of course, electronic music.

Hardpop Club in Juarez

There’s a unique, dark club called Hardpop that’s been recognized as one of Mexico’s best venues. Their music curation, the crowd vibes, and their special soundsystem are worth mentioning here. It was my underground box and educated me quite a bit.

Following the path of music has changed everything for me

I became part of their promotion team. So grateful for enjoying worldwide house and techno artists plus high-level local talent every weekend. I was there very often and sometimes arrived alone. Knowing there would be friends and new people to connect with through music. It felt like a good family and nobody was a stranger.

Tepeme music festival at the beach in mexico

Then I moved to Monterrey, another city north of the country. Which stands out in terms of venues and music events. It is important for me to mention Topaz Deluxe. A club with a cool terrace and good artist curation that got me my music fix. This is the time when I started digging as deep as I could in Soundcloud. As i came across slower takes on house and techno, the trip hop lover in me felt at home instantly.

The early days of Tepeme Música in the mexican music scene

Finally, in 2014 I came to Mexico City. It is known that there’s something for everybody, and music is no exception. I met Raúl, who co-founded Tepeme Música with me. As Soon as we were introduced the musical exchange was flowing. After two years we decided to be more than observers in the music scene. So by sharing equivalent desires with matching wills, we began curating podcasts on Soundcloud. The motivation kept increasing and another two years later we took the next step and planned our first compilation.

Mictlán is themed around the underworld and the journey the dead have to make through nine levels before getting there. It features 17 tracks of local and international talent.

Day of the dead, skeletons decorate a park in Mexico

Ancient mysticism and visions of the future

We like to exchange ideas in a natural flow, mainly through music but also with photographic and visual expressions. Our essence reflects appreciation for mountains, music and mysticism. The aztec underworld is called Mictlan, where the dead had to walk nine levels before getting there. Tepeme Monamictlán was the second level where Tepeyóllotl, god of the mountains, echoes and the jaguar resided.

The mexican downtempo music scene. People celebrating at the beach.

The echoing mountains as musical inspiration

It was the region where two mountains collided. Producing huge echoes as a signal to the dead to cross the line and reach the next level. In our podcast series, people can find journeys called “ecos”. Ecos del mundo is the mix series for international djs and producers. And Ecos del más allá displays our curation for Mexican artists. 

Mexican beach view representing the echoes of the mountains.

The importance of music in Mexican culture

Mexico is a country that craves music like no other. Even Spotify has pointed Mexico City as “streaming capital of the world”. Opening international artists’ eyes to this global music epicenter as a place to expand their reach and connect with new audiences. In fact, many times we see underground artists with the mosts listens coming from here. We’ve met so many friends that contribute the most interesting ideas to this environment in one way or another. And they’ve also supported us from the beginning, which is heartwarming and motivating for me.

People at the beach, celebrating togetherness in mexico.

At home in the music world with likeminded people

Local collectives and labels like Plurpura Records, VAA, DUAT, Moonatic, Wiphala Sound, Mexiko, Encuentros and Akasha Mx represent creative and dedicated teams with meaningful releases. We build and constantly improve a dynamic and eclectic downtempo music scene in Mexico. We feel there are many like-minded people out there who appreciate our projects. It feels great to come across them and exchange visions.

The music world pictured by a landscape in mexico

We do what we love because we love what we are

As in most places, the music scene has business ups and downs. Considering the time and investments that come with either organising events or managing a label. Yet I am convinced that our love for downtempo music is above any struggle and pushes us forward. We do not perceive our efforts as exhausting like a job. The satisfaction of co-creating and giving a space to showcase the music we dig is beyond that!

View from a magical mountain

Mystical encounters

The taste for a diverse range of genres and styles is constantly motivating us to keep digging. We connect with people from all over the world whose musical -and philosophical- expressions resonate with us. I’m certain such sense of variety comes from a society with a wide cultural background. Further I do believe the beautiful and mystical landscapes that surround us play their part as well.

The volcanoes and mountains near what once was Tenochtitlan, and that now is Mexico City. There are National Parks like Iztaccíhuatl-Popocatépetl and La Malinche where you can spot other mountains and volcanoes from the distance. For me it is a strong experience to hike them in both physical and spiritual matters. These places carry historic and mystical baggage like no other.

A beach hut in Mexico

About the visual identity of a music label

We also take eclecticism to the artwork angle of the label. Following the idea of a labels visual identity, but working with many visual artists to portray the music. It feels fresh and unmistakably chaotic, in the best sense there is. We see this as another sublime connection to the Amselcom dogma. And it was fun to come across this in a conversation with Andreas. Finding similar approaches in the work of other people can be highly inspiring and connects us on a professional level. It’s very fulfilling to see that our downtempo music scene is about exchanging knowledge and the energy flow is open.

A mountain caravan

My dream with Tepeme in the landscape of downtempo music labels

There are times when Tepeme Música feels like a dream. We’ve had the joy of interacting with labels and artists we respect and admire, too many to mention, but it’s worth to give a shoutout to Casa Caos, YNFND, Heimlich, Random Collective, Nomade, Echoes From Venus, NUMA, Leveldva, Pingipung, Tropical Twista, Urban Cosmonaut Radio and of course, Amselcom.

Nature view picturing the inspiration in music.

The connection with Amselcom

I discovered Amselcom in 2016 when Jacob Groening’s Haidi Ep came out. Then I came across Trippin Jaguar’s Arecibo EP which has the greatest artwork, by the way. When I heard Night Over Eridu, it became my favorite, having it on constant repeat and also used the EP title track in one of my podcasts. 

Another top release for me is Kalupke’s Thank Me For Having You, in which I also discovered okuma, so this one and Artificial Tree are also amongst my favorites. 

Pol Balam aka Jose Luis Cruz Tijerina from Tepeme Musica
Pol Balam of Tepeme Música

Amselcom and Tepeme’s first encounter happened when they premiered one of the tracks from GATS’ “Unnamed Dream” EP. Since then, Andreas and I have shared similar visions about the ever new definition of downtempo music. This friendship will definitely keep bringing interesting collaborations between Amselcom and the mexican music scene.

The german word for “dream like” describes my feelings towards this in a beautiful way. Therefore i end my story with: Traumhaft