In the early morning of July 30, the birdsong echoing through the swaying palms in the concrete jungle known as Los Angeles was somber as friends, fans and family woke up to the devastating news that prolific and self-taught tropical and electro-cumbia music producer DJ Nectali “SumoHair” Diaz left this earth.
He tragically died in an electric scooter accident in downtown Los Angeles. His longtime friend and fellow DJ, Diego Guerrero, confirmed his death. Nectali was a beloved son, brother, uncle, friend, collaborator, artist, educator and inspiration to many who crossed paths with him and experienced his daring spirit. He was the embodiment of a cultural revolution and a multi-faceted human.
He is survived by his mother and father, four siblings, and his “musical soul mate”, Fabi Reyna, the other half of his emerging musical project, Queen Tropical.
Born in the La Costa Chica region of Guerrero on November 16, 1979, Diaz has used his DIY approach to music production, graphic visuals and video design to uplift the marginalized Afro-Mexican community in his native country. He dreamed of one day publishing a book about this underrepresented region in Mexico.
Nectali’s endless passion for tropical culture lives on in countless tracks he produced throughout the last decade of his career and for his focus group. His untimely death is felt everywhere, from his home community of Long Beach, where he grew up, to Latin America’s tropical music scene, a tight-knit community that revered him for his ability to create innovative and extremely catchy beats. . weaving together atmospheric sounds of chirping birds and native instruments.
Nectali’s band have gained an international following after touring the country with Colombian megastars Bomba Estereo last year, and opening for Monsieur Periné at the Ford Theater in Hollywood on Sunday, July 24, 2022 – in what would sadly be Diaz’s last show. A few months prior, Reyna Tropical sold out a hometown show that she performed at the Paramount Theater in Boyle Heights. Their memorable performances featured colorful video projections created by Nectali, offering abstract depictions of radical autochthony, homosexuality and activism. This gesture, along with lyrics celebrating all of these themes, attracted people from all walks of life but was especially revered by BIPOC and LGBTQ communities around the world.
Nectali grew up in 90s Long Beach, a humble urban coastal environment in Los Angeles County that shaped his street smarts and barrio-rooted approach to music and life. He graduated from Lakewood High School, where he was a champion wrestler. His academic and athletic legacy lives on through his niece, Leslie Díaz, who is also league champion in Long Beach.
Nectali had been a self-proclaimed “fat boy” (an avid ska music fan) since his teenage years. That’s when he picked up a double bass, contributing to LA’s thriving Latin ska scene by starting a band and activating backyards. His adoration for reggae and rocksteady was a direct inspiration for his musical career. His love for dub has been unwavering throughout his life, attending as many shows as he could. He loved getting into the pit and rushed over to help and pick up other falling skankers. This passion persisted until his last hours in this realm, attending a ska show to see Raskahuele, Steady 45s and Cafe con Tequila hours before his accident.
The image of his bright, ubiquitous, brightly colored beanie, deep dimples, and what his friends affectionately called his “babyface” will remain etched in all who knew him.
After high school, Diaz learned the trade of hairstyling, which led him to move to New York to study at the prestigious Sassoon Academy. Before committing to music full-time last year, he had a successful career as a hairstylist in Los Angeles. He eventually became a teacher by trade as well, teaching a generation of Los Angeles hairstylists his confident yet unassuming style of haircut. His students called Nectali “Mr. Diaz.” Even as his musical career accelerated, self-managing Reyna Tropical’s touring and sound production, he always made time to cut his friends’ hair on demand. These hair styling sessions in her home studio doubled as quality time to have deep and meaningful conversations about family, relationships, and overcoming mental barriers as a creative professional.
Nectali was proudly stubborn in his ways and known to be down for anything. The image of his bright, ubiquitous, brightly colored beanie, deep dimples, and what his friends affectionately called his “babyface” will remain etched in all who knew him. If you had lunch with him, he would take you to his favorite under-the-radar street vendors, who he liked to support. He loved eating Puebla-style smoked lamb barbacoa tacos or ceviche tostadas, and cold Mexican tallboys with brown bags to wash it down. If he was dining, he would take you to his favorite low-key Korean spot for spicy wings and sashimi. He drinks coffee all day.
He was an OG gamer who collected retro gaming consoles and home arcade cabinets. He particularly liked to play street fighter 2 and was masterful at hadoken fireballs. He stayed in touch with childhood friends from Long Beach, but made hundreds of new friends around the world online through their devotion to music. He meets Fabi Reyna, who founded the magazine SheShreds, which celebrates female guitarists, and they have been creating music together online since living in Portland, Oregon.
Rest in peace, Sumo Hair. Your next estación is esperanza.
In 2011, Nectali co-starred in a KCET Documentary related to art for his pioneering work in LA’s electro-cumbia scene, with Diego Guerrero and Eduardo Gómez, his close friends raised in Long Beach and the DJs who formed Metrolleta de Oro.
But DJing was not enough for him.
“We loved spinning the vinyl, but Nectali loved creating his own sound,” Guerrero told LA TACO.
Earlier this year, Nectali job a screenshot on his Instagram account notifying him that his favorite artist, someone he was directly inspired by, Manu Chao, listened to Reyna Tropical and loved her.
“Wow! the only type of validation I’ve ever needed,” he posted in his caption.
Hundreds of Nectali fans around the world have posted their memories and condolences to their tropical music star, all of which are shared on Reyna Tropical’s Instagram account. Her bandmate, Fabi, announced that she would keep Reyna Tropical because that’s what Nectali wants her to do.
“I will make sure his vision, his art and his music live and are distributed to the extent that my body has the capacity in this lifetime. And as long as you’re all ready to receive it,” she said.
Reyna Tropical performs at a music festival this Saturday, August 6 in Chicago.
Nectali’s funeral will be held at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Long Beach, the same resting place where his favorite singer also from Long Beach, Nate Dogg, is buried.
Rest in peace, Nectali Diaz. Your next estación is esperanza.
Diego Guerrero hosts a fundraiser on behalf of Nectali’s family. Find the gofundme here.
Support our local partners