Mexico has a rich culture and musical heritage that includes timeless music like mariachi and norteno, but their rock scene is just deep and important. In this article, we’ll go over the 13 best Mexican rock bands to ever step on a stage.
1. Café Tacvba
Cafe Tacvba was formed in 1989 and took its name from a coffee shop in downtown Mexico City. The café itself was a center for the Pachuco scene that had a major influence on the members. They played as a garage band before being discovered by an Argentine producer that arranged for them to sign with Warner Music Latin.
In 1992, they released a self-titled debut album mixing punk, ska, hip hop, and electronica, with the single Maria, earning a nomination for Video of the Year at the Lo Nuestro Awards of 1993. In total, they have won one Grammy and 10 Latin Grammy Awards for their work from 1993 until 2018.
Inspired by groups like The Beatles, Caifanes was formed in Mexico City in 1987. They combine the sound of new wave, progressive rock, and Latin percussion with the deep, emotional lyrics one would expect from Latin American music. The name derives from a slang term that loosely translates to “cool dude” and has been used to describe delinquents or outsiders.
By 1989, they had become one of the most popular acts in Mexico and were the first Mexican rock group to sell out a 10,000-person venue. The success of Caifanes was a major influence on the Mexican rock scene, forcing record labels to take bands in the genre seriously, and was one of the first to dress out of social norms as well.
3. El Tri
El Tri is a spinoff band that’s responsible for having a major influence on the development of rock music in Mexico. It was formed in 1968 as an offshoot of Three Souls In My Mind and would experiment and implement elements of psychedelic rock, hard rock, acoustic rock, and blues. Their 50-plus-year career has earned them numerous gold-certified albums. They have been described as Mexico’s Rolling Stones, and in 2008, The Lonely Planet called them the Grandfathers of Rock and Roll in Mexico.
4. Maldita Vecindad
Formed in 1985 with the impressive full name of Maldita Vecindad y Los Hijos del Quinto Patio—for English readers: The Damned Neighborhood And The Sons Of The Fifth Patio—they are usually referred to as Maldita. Pioneers of rock music featuring Spanish lyrics, they are one of the most important bands in Mexican rock.
Though they stopped recording original music in 2009, they have continued collaborating with other groups and released a few tribute albums in the years since. Like other Mexican rock bands, the group incorporates elements of ska and rock with traditional Cuban themes.
Caifanes split in 1995 when frontman Saúl Hernandez and Alejandro Marcovich left. Hernandez would go on to found Jaguares and, thanks to some copyrights that were transferred, a few Caifanes songs would be included in his repertoire. He remained active until 2010 when Caifanes reformed, releasing six studio albums and winning a Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock Album in 2009 and Best Vocal Album Rock Group or Duo at the Latin Grammy Awards in the same year.
Maná’s blend of pop-rock has led to them becoming one of the most successful Latin music groups of all time, selling over 40 million records worldwide. They have earned four Grammys, eight Latin Grammys, 19 Billboard Latin Music Awards, and 15 Premios Lo Nuestro awards.
They consistently top Latin charts and set records for album sales and performance attendance. They have so many hits on the Latin tracks it’s hard to keep track of, though one of their best has to be Oye Mi Amor, from the ¿Dónde Jugarán Los Niños? album.
Zoe is one of the most popular bands in Spanish-speaking countries. Their initial foundation in 1994 was inspired by the Seattle grunge scene that birthed Nirvana, but they also incorporate elements of Britpop and grunge you would expect to hear from the Beatles.
In 2019, they won Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album at the Grammy Awards, and they’ve won two additional awards at the Latin Grammy Awards. Their popularity has seen them tour over 70 countries around the world, advancing the sound and popularity of Mexican rock like no other band.
8. Tijuana NO!
Tijuana No! is best known for its lyrics full of social criticism and support of the EZLN. The mainly ska and punk band found most of their success during the rebellious times of the 90s, releasing their first album with an independent record label.
While the group disbanded officially in 2002, much of their social commentary is still relevant today, even if we miss out on their powerful performances.
9. Botellita de Jerez
Originally formed in 1983, Botellita de Jerez—or Sherry Bottle—took a much less serious approach to music than most of their contemporaries. They’re known best for satirical lyrics and a simple style of rock and roll that’s infectious.
Despite some breakups and reunions, the band released a 2015 album #NoPinchMames that returned the group to their original style of poking fun while writing socially relevant lyrics and classic style of rock.
10. Panteón Rococó
Panteón Rococó may be a ska band by nature, but the group mixes elements of ska with rock, punk, salsa, mariachi, and mestizo music to create their one-of-a-kind sound. Most of their songs are performed with a high level of energy and mix social commentary with traditional components of love tracks.
Some of their best work are the songs Carencia and Vendedora. They are another group that very much supports the EZLN in Chiapas, adding some rebellious vibes to their tunes.
11. Los Teen Tops
The Teen Tops were formed in the 1960s and were an integral part of the rock music movement in Mexico. Most of their songs are written in a way that makes them easy to dance to, drawing inspiration from major acts in the US like Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. They produced a number of international hits, with Good Golly Miss Molly probably being their most popular and recognizable one.
Most of their songs were sung in Spanish, making them one of the most important bands in Mexico’s rock scene and majorly popular in the Spanish-speaking nations of Latin America.
12. Chac Mool
Alongside Decibel, Chac Mool pioneered progressive rock in Mexico. Their lineup has been fluid since it dissolved in 1985, popping up now and again with different members but still continuing the project. The cult-music phenomenal band made use of several unusual instruments—at least in Mexican rock groups—like the cello, mandolin, and synthesizers.
They never had a strong vocalist for their frontman role, but their instrumentation was exceptional. In addition to pioneering progressive rock, the group is one of the few that represents and includes elements from ancient civilizations in their music, always paying homage to the ancient people who lived in Mexico.
Molotov was formed in Mexico City in 1995 and is one of the most notable bands to have all of their members sing and rap their lyrics. All of their songs are mixtures of the Spanish and English languages, which has made them more accessible in wide markets for natural speakers of both. They incorporated elements of hip hop, rock, punk, and pop into their music, and they have been described as an alt-rock, Latin rock, and rap metal band in addition to being part of the rock en español style of music.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.