Breaking all boundaries with San Diego bi-national hip hop group, tulengua


tulengua frontman Alan Lilienthal once described the cross-border music group as "a celebration of a borderless ideal...Humans connecting with other humans." It's a mission statement that at once sounds conventionally forthright, yet admirably aspirational. Everyone wants to connect people with their music, of course, but not many have the opportunity to do it like a group of musicians literally standing between two borders.

Developed in 2016, tulengua was formed as a response to the social tensions fueled by the presidential elections and, of course, its outcome. While the hailing of President Trump may have led a wave of dismay across the nation, San Diego, in particular, stood within the crossfire. As the top refugee county in the country's most populated state, as well as home of the world's busiest border, Trump's hateful campaign rhetoric reverberated differently through our residents. Talk of bad hermanos and muslim bans during campaign speeches may have rung out like the bark of a toothless beast to those on the outside, but we felt it different. These weren't just noises—they were attacks, biting deep into the psyche of our neighbors, our friends, and our families.

Understanding the zeitgeist of the time, friends Alan Lilienthal, Amari Jordan, and jimmy.thevillain saw the shift in attitude as an opportunity to combat hatred with relentless unity, culturally and musically. "We were talking with friends about how important it is to live in one of the busiest borders in the world, and what that means for each one of us," Lilienthal told Al Dia in a 2018 interview, "That's when we decided to make music that would speak of the borderless ideal."


"If you look at the members of the band, we are too diverse. White, black, brown, woman, man, with a beard, without a beard ... we didn’t plan it that way, it arose naturally and, precisely, it demonstrates the diversity we are talking about.”

With the release of tulengua's 2018 debut mixtape Baja Funk, the group aimed to identify a sound that lambasted the idea of regionality, genre and borders in any sense. The music, which oozes influences ranging from hip hop, alternative R&B, latin, and rock, managed to explore multiple worlds without losing the defining pieces that gave them such pointedness to begin with. The mixtape landed the group a San Diego Music Award nomination for Album of the Year.

Now, with a project under their belt, tulengua plans to expand on their regionally acclaimed sound and core mission. This is made evident in new single, "Real," from their forthcoming follow-up album.

"Whereas our first mixtape was very much based on the geopolitics of this region and the stupidity of walls," says Lilienthal, "This new music, and this song in particular, we took our original binational, borderless philosophy to outer-space to contemplate God, change, and transforming your bad ways into honest power."

"Because we're all from different backgrounds, cultures, and religions, we're really inspired by the common humanity our music brings out of us. Like love, God, and learning to be fucking confident in who you are. These are all things we all deal with in different ways...The new album is very inspired by that no limit mentality and exploring the universal through the personal."

"Real" is now available to stream on all major platforms. The as-of-yet untitled follow-up album is slated for a late summer release.