Home An Interview With Los Shinigamis Del Norte - The Kings of Nortaku

An Interview With Los Shinigamis Del Norte - The Kings of Nortaku

Eloquently blending norteño music and culture with ani-songs and anime culture, Mexico’s Los Shinigamis del Norte have brought something to a longstanding genre of music that most would have never thought possible. Covering anime songs in the norteño music style (a genre of music originating in Mexico that heavily features the accordion and bajo sexto and finds its origin in a mixture of Mexican-Austrian-Czech folk music.) Founded in Monterrey in 2017, Los Shinigamis del Norte have quickly risen to become both a respected anime band and a respected norteño band, bringing a novel concept to both genres.

It’s paradoxical that, as a society, we’re so obsessed with inclusion but vehemently rant about cultural appropriation. Of course, if it’s being done crudely, it can be said that there’s a reason for the offense. But if one carefully incorporates a foreign trait alongside a trait that’s inherently theirs and then presents it on a stage for the world to see, that is truly magical. Few people can cast a spell as eloquently as Mexico’s Los Shinigamis del Norte.

Made up of former YouTuber Yair “Lalothing” Guzmán on vocals, Erasmo Herrera on accordion, Marcos Bocanegra on bass guitar, Fernando Dominguez on bajo quinta, and Diego Garcia on drums. Los Shinigamis del Norte are considered to be progenitors of the nortaku sub-genre of norteño music.

We at Anime Corner recently interviewed Los Shinigamis del Norte and got to talk about their music, anime, and norteño culture. This interview was conducted in Spanish and has been translated for the Anime Corner website. While the utmost care was given to translating everything as close to the original meaning as possible, some edits were made to improve the flow and accuracy.

Q: Firstly, can you tell us a little about how Los Shinigamis del Norte started?

A: We were created in 2017 by the YouTuber (and current vocalist) “Lalothing.” Before that, he was known for creating parodies of anime songs where he heavily referenced norteño/Mexican culture. He used to perform corridos (Mexican folk ballads) about characters from cartoons, movies, and YouTubers. Among his most viral songs were “El corrido de Shaggy,” “El corrido de los Avengers,” “El corrido del abduzcan (Auronplay).”

Our first appearance was at a small anime event in Monterrey, where Lalothing performed his covers. Originally, we covered ani-songs in a hard rock style. But after that event, the original band was discontinued. We resurrected the band in a norteño style around June 2021, and we had our debut at the Conve-Animex in Monterrey. It was this performance that really kicked off our career. People shared clips of our performance, and the fact that we were playing norteño music dressed as Naruto-themed cowboys garnered a lot of attention. The videos quickly went viral. We reached ten thousand followers in the week following our debut.

Q: When people think about norteño music and its themes and lyrics, they think of groups like Los Tigres del Norte or Ramon Ayala, and their lyrics are steep with heartbreak and narco-trafficking. On the other hand, you’re usually singing anime covers with upbeat lyrics, yet it works so well. Why do you think that is?

A: We think the formula works because of nostalgia. Many of the group’s followers grew up with anime like Dragon Ball, Ranma ½, Naruto, and Saint Seiya. They also grew up listening to norteño music because it’s what their older family members would listen to. So, our mix really hits a nostalgic chord with listeners.

Not only did this work really well in the northern part of Mexico, but due to the prevalence of norteño memes in the center and south of the country (Cosplays with hats, drinking caguamas (large beers)). Because of this and the trends in the country that hyped up corridos tumbados (a type of corridos that fuses rap, hip-hop, and reggaetón), it really helped us take off.

Q: Many people found out about you due to that one viral video of you guys playing at a convention in Akatsuki robes and a bunch of cosplayers dancing to your performance. Could you tell us a little bit more about that particular show?

Lalothing: That concert was what made us take off internationally. Someone uploaded a clip of that performance to TikTok where a cosplayer dressed as Boba Fett was dancing with Grogu, and it blew up. So much so that even the official Star Wars account re-posted the video.

Q: Your popularity has been steadily growing over the past few years. After the passing of Akira Toriyama sensei, even fans from outside of Mexico shared your content to express how much Dragon Ball meant to the global anime community. And in a time where people are up in arms about cultural appropriation and what can and can’t be combined, it’s beautiful to see a blending of two cultures being so heartwarmingly accepted. How do you feel about that?

A: It’s a beautiful feeling. The support we’ve gotten has been much greater than the hate, and to us, that means we are doing something right. We once read a comment that stated, “This would be mocked if it was poorly done, but it’s done so professionally that it works.” From there, we knew we had to strive to show that this was not a joke. It’s authentic norteño music. After all, it’s not about offending anyone. It’s quite the opposite — we want people to like it.

Q: Is music something that you all do full-time? If not, would you like to pursue it as a career?

Lalothing: Music is actually our second job. All of us have occupations outside of this. Our drummer, Diego, is an accountant. Erasmo, the accordion player, is a dentist! The youngest Shinigami is Fer, who is 16 years old and is a high school student. Marcos, the bassist, and I (Lalothing) also have jobs outside of music. But what unites us all is that even though music is not our main job, it is what we are most passionate about, and we all have the same goal of going further in this.

Q: What are your favorite covers to play?

Lalothing: “Moonlight Densetsu” by Dali (Sailor Moon)
Fer: “Butterfly” by DXGX (Digimon)
Marcos: “Pegasus Seiya” by Make-up (Saint Seiya)
Erasmo: “Los Malaventurados no lloran” by Pxndx
Diego: “Pegasus Seiya” by Make-up (Saint Seiya)

Q: What is the anime scene in Mexico is like? We understand that Mexico is a pretty big and diverse country. The culture, heritage, and socioeconomic makeup of one state may be completely different from that of another. Comparing Sonora to the Yucatan is akin to comparing Florida to Alaska. Does the makeup of a state affect how anime is viewed and accepted?

A: We’ve been to most states in Mexico, and surprisingly, we realized that anime is very well accepted throughout the country. There are more otakus now – it’s become a trend. So much so that now you can find cosplays for sale in various shops in most cities. Before, it wasn’t common. You had to order them from China or make them yourself. We don’t think it’s bad that it has become trendy. Honestly, it’s great that there are more of us and that it’s so normalized that there is no longer bullying like before haha.

Q: In your time as a performer, what would be your most loved show or live experience that really stood out to you? Is there any place you would like to play in the future?

A: There’s so much that’s really impacted us. The fact that TV and internet celebrities, as well as norteño singers, know us and like what we do is touching. We were floored to have been asked to collaborate with Playstation to provide part of the soundtrack to Final Fantasy XVI.

But the most impressive thing would have to be that at an event organized by the Mexico-Japan Association, our friend Shinji Hirai (the event organizer) mentioned to us that the people at the Embassy of Japan in Mexico knew us and that they liked our concept, and were excited to have us at their event. Without a doubt, the ultimate goal for all otaku bands is to perform in Japan.

Q: If you could collaborate with any Japanese artist, who would it be?

Lalothing A: That would be with either Yoko Takahashi, Ikimonogakari, or Baby Metal.

Q: We have to ask: what are some of your favorite shows, mangas, and Japanese artists?

Diego: Inuyasha
Lalothing: My favorite anime would be Evangelion, and my favorite artist would be Baby Metal
Marcos: Sword Art Online
Fer: Hajime no Ippo
Erasmo: Dragon Ball

Q: Lastly, if you could let your international fans know anything about norteño music, culture, or Mexico as a whole. What would it be?

A: We’d like to thank our fans for embracing and celebrating our culture while acknowledging that in Mexico, we value joy. We value daring endeavors and seek to explore new experiences. You are welcome to visit our country anytime to dance to some great cumbia music. We love you all and appreciate your support. It’s because of you we can represent Otaku/Friki culture. Thank you for driving the Nortaku movement, and get ready for new music!

Check out Los Shinigamis del Norte on X, Facebook and Instagram.
Listen to their music on YouTube, Apple Music, and Spotify.

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