The Minds Behind the 'Mayans M.C.' Soundtrack Talk About Its Protest Mission: Exclusive

James Minchin/FX
JD Pardo as EZ Reyes in Mayans M.C

In title scene of the new FX series Mayans M.C., the original song “Nunca” plays as the credits roll over an aesthetic montage of motorcycles, saints, skulls, bullets and barbed wire. It sets the scene for the Sons of Anarchy spin-off about the members of the Mayans Biker Club in a fictional border town.

The sound of the guitar ballad performed by David Hidalgo, of Los Lobos fame, and Los Refugios Tiernos is sweet and understated. Its lyrics? not so much.

“Broke our brown backs chasing Mr. White’s dream / that Bill of Rights was just a pyramid scheme,” he sings. Gang loyalty is invoked by images of a wolf pack, while bigger issues representing a larger Latino population in the United States are raised: "Damn your pale seniority, go build your walls, we own the majority.”

Bob Thiele, who composed what he calls a protest song with Kurt Sutter, the creator of Mayans and Sons of Anarchy, told Billboard that “given the country’s current social and political climate it just seemed like a great opportunity to make a statement that might reflect the experience of a large segment of Latino Americans.”

He says the title, which means “never,” stands for “never forget.”

Thiele partnered with Michelle Silverman for the music supervision of Mayans, which premiered as 2018’s no. 1 cable debut on Sept. 4 (bolstered by subsequent streaming numbers). FX reported that 19 percent of the audience was Hispanic. On average, Latino viewers have made up about 10 percent of the audience for English-language scripted series premieres on cable this year, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Mayans' bilingual soundtrack pushes the boundaries of music for a TV show that focuses on Latino culture.

“I was looking for authentic Latin music,” Silverman says, adding that the musical selections are in sync with the way that, in her view, the show’s characters transcend stereotypes.

The series includes tracks by artists like Cypress Hill (“Rise Up”) and War (“Me and Baby Brother”). Ozomatli’s Asdru Sierra rapped on a collaboration with Thiele.

The composer describes the music on Mayans as “a hybrid between American musical genres (hip-hop, rock. metal, singer-songwriter, etc.) and Latino music, both modern and traditional.”

Tracks include “Todo Negro,” a Spanish version of “Paint It, Black” by Los Salvajes, a 1960s group from Barcelona who were known in their time as Spain’s Rolling Stones.

Both Silverman and Thiele say they see Mayans as a showcase for Latin acts who might not otherwise reach the kind of massive mainstream audience who will tune in to the series. (4.6 million people had seen the premiere episode by Monday, Sept. 10)

Mayans has a unique multi-genre Latin soundtrack,” says Sunflower Entertainment/Spirit Music Latino co-founder Jamar Chess who has been providing tracks for the show from the catolog his company represents as well as various independent artists and labels. He previously helped find the vintage groove for Netflix’s Narcos.

“We sourced everything from harder Colombian hip-hop like Calle Cardona to vintage boleros and newer tracks by up-and-comer Gregorio Uribe,” says Chess, whose finds for the show have included songs heard on the bike shop’s AM radio. “It’s not specific in terms of region or genre, it just goes by the feel.”

Here, from Chess, are more songs to listen for in the first season of Mayans M.C.: