In his 1980 country rock song, “El Noa Noa,” Mexican balladeer Juan Gabriel sang of the magical dancehall he once frequented in Ciudad Juarez: a place where everything and everyone was different, and where you could dance happily through the night.
Over the years, the song became embraced by the Latinx LGBTQ community as an ode to spaces where love could overcome prejudice. It was finally in 2019 — three years since the legendary singer-songwriter’s death — that Georgel and Esteman, two gay Latino artists, evolved the classic from its laid-back, Eagles-esque stride, and into something more fit for today’s utopian disco.
“Beyond being an anthem for the LGBT community,” Georgel told Rolling Stone, “‘Noa Noa’ is an anthem for liberty, an invitation to be ourselves in a place where [anyone] is allowed. [We used] a different rhythm, which is a cumbia, to revive it for new generations.”
For their remix, they enlisted the help of aerospace engineer-turned-electro-cumbia star Raymix, as well as genre pioneers the Mexican Institute of Sound. But at the eleventh hour, the song got an extra special co-sign from a regional Mexican hero: the late great, Celso Piña. (“The chief of chiefs,” boasts the Institute’s Camilo Lara.) Piña took to his Monterrey studio to record his impeccable flutters of accordion, just days before his death in August 2019. It would be his last recording ever.
The remix now serves as a memorial to not one, but two Mexican legends. In the new video, Georgel, Esteman and Raymix stumble into a swinging party in space, where extraterrestrials, drag queens and other revelers flaunt their moves. Projected into the sky is an archival shot of Celso Piña, playing his accordion among the stars. Together the three friends bid him sweet farewell — and continue to party in memory of their Mexican idols.
“Juan Gabriel has been a great influence for many musicians who want to make songs that connect with everyone, regardless of their background or beliefs,” says Esteman. “And in reality, he was able to deliver that.”