Ñaka Ñaka - Telenovela Fantasmux (I, II, & III)

Telenovela Fantasmux (Saga), Ñaka Ñaka
Independiente, Mexico
Rating: 82
by Reuben Torres 

It’s been six years since the term hauntology was assimilated into the discourse of electronic music.  The neologism had originally been coined in a work by post-structuralist thinker Jacques Derrida in reference to the continuing influence of communism amidst Western civilization’s alleged arrival at the end of history. It was later adopted as a way of describing a tendency within British electronic music, namely the Ghost Box and Mordant Music labels.  These artists not only incorporated elements of the past into their work, but made it their prime subject matter. Soon, writers like Simon Reynolds began proposing the term be used as a name for the burgeoning musical style. The rest is (recurring) history.

Telenovela Fantasmux III is the third iteration in a series of works by Jerónimo Jimenez, better known under the guise of Ñaka Ñaka. In the simplest of definitions, the series explores the sonic legacy of the Telenovela. Of course, it’s not so much the concept—which could appear facile on paper—as it is about delivery. TF carves a dimension out of the murkiest recesses of the listener’s subconscious, unravelling hidden links that we had considered all but faded. The lazy music journalist could easily draw comparisons with the work of Leyland Kirby or James Ferraro and call it a day (admittedly, I’ve been guilty of this practice in the past). But there’s much more in the work of Jimenez, so many nuances specific to the listener and the culture, that one could spend entire months unearthing them through repeated listens.

More than sheer nostalgia, TF is about the way our brain has been molded through decades of consumption. The cheesiness of these themessome instantly familiar, others navigating the tenuous line between remembrance and reverieis not just something we cringe at upon revisiting them, but rather, it unmasks something much deeper within us. That trite and tawdry sentimentality is embedded into our mental fabric, it’s the way we (as Mexicans, or Latin Americans who grew up on Televisa/Telemundo soap-dramas) came to assimilate the reality of the world. Innocuous provincial girls pitted against demonic femme fatales, dashing and affluent bachelors as the ultimate existential aspiration of the feminine character, the idea of love as something that can trump centuries-old class disparities, these aren’t just clichés of the culture as they are methods of educating it.  In a time when politicians seek to use such paradigms as means toward power, TF is not only relevant, but revealing. The hole goes much deeper than we might have imagined.

In any other instance, Jimenez’s aesthetic choices would be considered dubious, if not outright anachronistic. After all, hauntology itself never fully blossomed into a dominant trend, let alone a genre. But then, this was never really the intent of its prime exponents. Rather, it seems that the tendency spurred in a particular moment in history when everything new was, in fact, old, when every style had seemingly been discovered and rediscovered by new generations, and any statement that could possibly be uttered had already been said. Looking at the current panorama of music, this phenomenon doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.  The contemporary artist considers epochal reappropriation almost like a second-nature.  Sure enough, the aughts were mostly a polished rendition of the '70s and '80s.  By my calculations, we should be arriving at the peak of '90s pillaging toward the middle of the decade.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it’s difficult not to consider this tendency as symptomatic of an age’s inability to come to terms with the present. What hauntological works like TF express is our culture’s particular (particular culture’s?) adherence to unresolved conflicts, of ghosts that we thought had been laid to rest, and yet continue to haunt.