With his tousled dark hair and fresh-faced smile, 20-year-old Anibal Silva looks like a lot of young students at MiraCosta College as he ambles around the computer lab and mingles in the Music Department.
So it's a little hard to picture him up on a Tijuana stage, surrounded by flashing images on big screens as he mixes sounds on two turntables while thousands of fans dance to the music.
But that's how Silva spends a couple nights a week as the youngest member of the Tijuana-based "collective," Nortec, a recently formed group of visual artists, musicians, and Web site designers that one Internet reviewer described as contemporary electronica at its most enthusiastic and experimental. Widely popular in Mexico, Nortec is going international, taking its blend of traditional Mexican folk music and high-tech sounds on a 10-day string of gigs in Barcelona, Spain.
Silva, who improvises what and how he mixes, is not overwhelmed by things like stage fright or flying oversees. Although he's only been with Nortec for six months, he's played drums and guitar for years and has been performing in public since he was 18. Before he graduated from high school in Mexico City, he spent time studying in Canada and England.
And what's he doing at MiraCosta?
"My cousin told me there was a good music program here, small and low-key, so I thought, OK, cool," says Silva. "I don't want a degree or a piece of paper, I just want the knowledge. If I get an idea, I take the courses. Projects and homework I mix with what I want to do for myself. The courses and information I get here help a lot."
Since he enrolled at Mira-Costa in fall of 2000, Silva has taken Recording Arts, Internet for Business, Fundamentals of Web Page Construction, Lingo Director, and Music Theory. He plans to continue studying multimedia and music theory in the fall.
"Before I came to Mira-Costa I didn't know anything about computers," says Silva. "Now I get along pretty well."
Pretty well, indeed. Nortec wants to use the online "shopping cart" he created as a mid-term project for his Internet for Business class. He's learning how to create computerized music for future performances. Now he's packing pounds of records -- "And a few pair of clean socks" -- and heading off to mix music for audiences in Spain.
"I'm secure with my playing. I feel good about my playing," says Silva, who taught himself how to mix recorded sounds on a couple turntables he picked up in 1996. "Now if I had to do a speech for a class, whoa... I couldn't do that!"