In the song “Una Vez Más,” (One More Time), Ceci Bastida sings from the point of a view of a school shooter. “If you dare to insult me one more time, you’ll see how I get my revenge,” she sings (in Spanish) to a hum of snare drums and synthesizers. “One, two, ready or not, ready or not, here I come."
The song, off her upcoming second album, “La Edad de la Violencia” (The Age of Violence), was inspired by the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. But it could also have emerged out of the Reynolds High School shooting in Oregon earlier this month. Or the May shootings at Isla Vista, near the UC Santa Barbara campus. Or any of the 74 school shootings that have taken place in the United States over the last 18 months.
“When I was writing the songs for this last record I was pregnant,” says Bastida, a Tijuana-born singer-songwriter who has lived in Los Angeles for almost a decade. “And like a lot of pregnant women, I was thinking about the kind of world that I would bring my daughter into. I was thinking about what was happening in the world and in this country. I kind of started obsessing about violence.”
“Una Vez Más,” she says, doesn’t justify what the Sandy Hook shooter (or any other shooter) has done. “I’m simply trying to understand what went through his mind,” she explains. “That’s the way I deal with something. It’s almost like therapy. As I’m writing, I’m trying to understand. But in this case, I still don’t get it.” (You can see the video for the song at the right of this post.)
But if her album channels a certain synth-pop moodiness — "I wanna live in peace, tranquillity/But I can’t see the end” goes one lyric — it is also about hope. It ends with a loving note: the song “Ven,” inspired by Bastida’s daughter Yamila, and sung with her friend and fellow bandmate, Grammy-winning Tijuana songwriter Julieta Venegas.
It’s this mood — a combination of darkness and light — that inspired her selection for “Moment of Friday,” the video at the top of this post that shows the absolutely wondrous mechanical orchestra constructed by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes entirely out of deactivated guns.
The piece, titled “Disarm,” was made out of weapons seized by the authorities in the border town of Juarez. With the help of musicians and programmers, Reyes disassembled and reassembled the pieces, crafting xylophones out of gun barrels and percussive instruments out of gun grips. It was displayed in Mexico City in 2013.
This is not the first time that Reyes, a sculptor, has created something out of guns. In 2008, he created “Palas por Pistolas” (Shovels for Guns), in which he melted down 1,527 guns collected in the city of Culiacán (a center in the drug trade), and used them to fabricate 1,527 shovels, which were used to plant trees.
Bastida says she first came across Reyes’ instrument piece when a friend passed the video along to her. “I love it from a visual perspective and I love what he is saying with it,” she says. “You think about a gun and you think about death, but he is taking that away and making it into something beautiful, you turn it into something that makes music — and as he says, that is the most pure form of communication.”
It has a strong parallel with Bastida’s own work. Out of tragedy, she has crafted great beauty: rich melodies laced with sad strings, sci-fi synthesizers and the sound of oompa-oompa Norteño horns, all draped with her cool vocals. Like Reyes, she takes death and makes it into something just a little bit magical.
“La Edad de la Violencia” drops Tuesday, June 24. That same evening she plays a concert at the Casbah, 2501 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, casbahmusic.com. Two nights later, on Thursday, Bastida will play a gig at the Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, bootlegtheater.org.