ElArturo Is the Regional Eccentric Taking Huge Sonic Risks
ElArturo is a 23-year-old Mexican artist who’s naturally a little spacey and eccentric, and he spent a lot of 2022 feeling out of his element. He’d released his impressive debut album, Y Qué, the previous year, and he watched with awe as the world quickly opened up before him. Suddenly, he was exploring completely new places, meeting unexpected fans, and experiencing a full-on music career. It was almost like entering a different dimension — one that he hadn’t totally anticipated.
“I was discovering the world, and everything felt weird, and it felt new,” he says in a drawl from Durango, where he’s from. “I hadn’t gone to as many cities as big. I’d never known as many people. Everything was so strange and there was so much of it… At some point, I said, ‘I’m going to take all of this and make an album called Raro, because that’s how it all feels.’”
Raro (or “odd”) debuted recently, a surprising collection of far-out, dazed songs that feel like looking at traditional Mexican music through a funhouse mirror. It’s testament to the continued growth of música Mexicana, which has been expanding globally over the last few years — and it also shows how young artists have been pushing these genres in new directions. ElArturo’s trippy strain is something he’s dubbed “alternative regional,” employing both his unconventional production tastes and personal songwriting. And yes, there were psychedelics involved.
“I had a lot of feelings of judging myself because I knew I was going against the current with this in terms of both the music and lyrics,” he says. “But I planted a flag and said, ‘This is who I am.’”
The project’s quirky approach makes sense coming from ElArturo, whose career has had a lot of unexpected twists and turns. He played guitar in a sierreño group when he was in high school but left when he started college. Eventually, after going back home briefly, he ended up moving to Guadalajara, where he fell deeper into songwriting during a breakup. He started a new school there and came across a teacher, who was amused to find a kid from Durango interested in making regional in Guadalajara, which is known for a more alternative music scene. But ElArturo had big ideas about sounds he wanted to fuse and probe, and he sent his teacher a few tracks he’d written. The teacher decided to introduce ElArturo to an executive who manages him today.
Both his teacher and his manager had to get one more person on board with his career: his dad. ElArturo’s father has become a fixture in his music as well, with Raro’s opener “Aceitado” dedicated to a hilarious conversation they had when ElArturo began smoking weed. The song written as a back-and-forth, based directly on what happened in real life, when ElArturo’s dad asked if he’d been smoking, and he answered honestly. “I’ve always been transparent with my dad. I don’t know why, but I’m very direct. I don’t like hiding things from him,” ElArturo says. “Afterward, I was like, ‘That was interesting – why did I tell him everything so honestly?’ I wanted to write about it.”
That song, with its pitched-up chipmunk chorus and laconic rapping, has become one of the most divisive on the album. Most people see the humor in it, and the way the woozy sonic touches play into the exploits of a pothead. Others don’t. “On Tiktok, I’m getting so much hate!” ElArturo says with a laugh. “A little part of the song, people are taking it and going, ‘What is this’? But it’s good they’re out there commenting.” Plus, that’s been balanced by how many people have reached out to tell him they appreciate how many risks he took on Raro. “This gave me a certain kind of credibility as an artist,” he says. “They can no longer categorize me as something small or commercial anymore. The objective of the album was that: to expand my identity.”
He’s already finishing a third album, which he says will be dedicated to more straightforward regional styles. But he’s not abandoning his experimental tastes, especially because he has one new fan in particular excited about what he does next: “My dad came around once he realized I could do this. He said to me, ‘Don ‘t listen to anyone else. If this is what you want, go for it.’”