No One Knows More About Mexican Music Than This Woman

That's a very personal story of mine. I used to own this bar in Tepoztlán around 1990 and I hired Chavela to sing there. I spent three years picking her up in a nearby town and bringing her to the bar and then driving her home at like 2 or 3 in the morning. Some time after that, I put this song called "Las Simples Cosas" in a movie called Morirse Un Domingo directed by Daniel Gruener. Martirio sings that version [a cover of a 1960s song], but I had heard Chavela sing that same song before. I wanted her in this movie no matter what, because I feel she has that thing that all Mexican musicians have - and Tom Waits - that is so heartrending, hitting you right in your sternum.

See Also: Why Chavela Vargas Was The Most Kick-Ass Mexican Singer That Ever Lived

So when I went to see her, she agreed to be in the movie but only to be interviewed; not to sing. Once we were filming, I asked her if she'd sing a little of "Las Simples Cosas," and she did. That was a nice surprise.

Fainchtein with a Huichol tribesman in Mexico during the filming of 'Hecho En Mexico.'

How did you decide which non-Mexican artists to include in the movie, like Residente from Calle 13?

I picked people who are my friends, first and foremost, and people whose points of view matter to me. We were looking for thinkers – artists, yes, but thinkers more than anything. I knew René would be perfect for the chapter called "Libertad" because he has something to say on the subject on a Latin American level. I thought that wider point of view was important. He wrote the song "Soy Libre Por Que Pienso," specifically for this movie and he recorded it with Molotov.

Why open with Café Tacvba singing "Tiempos de Híbridos"?

That's a cover of a famous Rockdrigo song [from his posthumous 1986 album, El Profeta Del Nopal]. He's sort of the Bob Dylan of Mexico. That song also opens the soundtrack, which will be available some time in December and has 24 songs by the different artists. We have a few covers, but most are original songs that Duncan [who has a musical background that precedes his work in film] and the artists worked on together. I knew I wanted a Rockdrigo song in the movie, and they lyrics of that one say exactly what Mexico is going through today.

Why was Rubén Albarrán of Café Tacvba the right person to revive that Rockdrigo song?

Because to me Café Tacvba, even when they're not being political, they have such a clear point of view on things. I felt it was a voice that we needed. Rubén is a hippie and a social activist, and he really drove home what Rockdrigo was trying to say back then. If you notice, all of the songs in this movie are saying something.

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How do you keep your musical memory bank fresh?

These days, I'm really thankful to Apple and iTunes because I'm able to do monthly playlists and keep it all organized. I always have thousands of new songs waiting to be heard, so it's actually rare that I listen to the same song twice these days. There's so much music in the world right now; everyone is a musician – it can be overwhelming. But whatever my time allows.

How many songs are in your collection?

I have no idea. I used to be able to keep track and say, I have this many CDs or LP's. Now I have multiple hard drives with music on them.

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