Bocuma Synths

Guadalajara in Western Mexico is rated as the cultural centre of Mexico. It’s where the Mariachi music originated and where many large cultural events are held. Besides being Mexico’s cultural hotspot it is the place where Bocuma Synths was founded by Emmanuel Galvan Martinez in 2015.

Guadalajara in Western Mexico is rated as the cultural centre of Mexico. It’s where the Mariachi music originated and a place where many large cultural events are held. Besides being Mexico’s cultural hotspot it is the place where Bocuma Synths was founded by Emmanuel Galvan Martinez in 2015.

Lately the brand has started global distribution making them the first Mexican brand to reach an international market. Emmanuel has expressed how excited he is to show the world what Mexico has to offer in terms of creativity and ingenuity.

Bocuma Synths currently manufactures two modules, the SUM0 and Esquival and harmonically expanded VCO and VCF filter/mixer, respectively.

We had the opportunity to have a chat with Emmanuel and dive deeper on how they have designed their first module (Esquivel) based on the space-age pop from Juan García Esquivel who was one of the first Mexican musicians to experiment with electronics. Let’s see why this city in Mexico is self-proclaimed to be ‘Guadala-Funk’.

Esquivel racked in Eurorack case

About Bocuma Synths & Emmanuel Galván

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into the music technology industry?

Emmanuel studied engineering in Mexico before moving to Sydney & Brisbane in Australia to complete his Bachelor’s degree in audio production, and Master’s degree in creative industries (Majoring in Music & Sound).

He has been interested in technology and gadgets since he was a kid, trying to disassemble his Dad’s stereo set-up to see where the music from this unit actually came from. Noticing this behaviour his parents started to encourage his explorational mindset in different ways.

From playing with LEGO, do making DIY radio kits he made his way into the world of DJ-ing as a teenager. Through this he discovered the world of audio engineering and an imaginary career plan was developed by Emmanuel progressing into the world of electronic music.

Finishing his education abroad, Emmanuel returned to Mexico in 2015. With more time on-hand he decided to build his first synthesizer. Starting with Ray Wilson’s DIY kit, the founder of Music from Outer Space, which got him hooked and made sure he never stopped ever since.

What inspired you to start Bocuma Synths, and what has been your vision for the company since its inception?

Bocuma Synths started from the desire to demystify synths. As we know, synthesisers can be mysterious devices and this is what got Emmanuel’s curiosity going. The opportunities synths provided with such a small amount of components was something that amazed him.

After assembling quite a couple of do-it-yourself synthesizers he decided to up the ante by trying to design one from scratch. After successfully developing a fully functional synthesizer, people started requesting if Emmanuel would build these units in return for payment. 

During his study, Emmanuel has met a lot of entrepreneurial individuals that turned their crafts into business. Emmanuel started researching several brands in the world of modular synthesizers but none of them were operating from Mexico. This was the turning point for Emmanuel, with his background in engineering and his roots in Guadalajara, Mexico he knew the time was there to start Bocuma Synths. 

Mexico, and specially his hometown, Guadalaraja is a strong player in terms of electronics manufacturing and during this time they started introducing the creative industry as part of their state development plans. Emmanuel felt he was in the right environment for an upcoming synthesizer brand.

His vision switched from being a small humble business building synthesizer modules to actually developing a brand that could represent his country, passion for synthesizers and creative designs.

The challenge now was to learn more about product development and manufacturing, to support this Emmanuel managed to find himself a job at a product development firm called Dagaa Development. He was providing design schematics for IoT products, and eventually moved on to a project management position. Emmanuel acknowledges he is grateful for the opportunity offered at the development firm and believes these to be his formative years when it comes to manufacturing and the development of the brand.

The modular synthesizer industry is hard to break through and is constantly shifting and morphing, with over 14.000 modules to choose from on ModularGrid and new modules being released every single day the challenge for Emmanuel is to see how far he can take his brand.

In addition to being the owner of Bocuma Synths, you might also be a sound creator. How does your experience as a musician influence your work at Bocuma Synths, and vice versa?

Emmanuel considers himself to be an incognito sound artist, blending between the world of making music and designing music technology which in essence are two very different things.

In his own words: “For me, its nice to understand gear from the inside out, I feel it gives me a different perspective to most sound artists or musicians in terms of how to choose tools or how to make things sound in an specific way. 

I remember seeing a documentary on early electronic music where they interviewed Tristam Cary, the electronic music pioneer. It really resonated with me, here’s this guy, one of the grandfathers of synths and electronic music. 

Very elegantly dressed, pipe in mouth and with a British accent and he says something like: “Sometimes, people would want an specific sound and there’s not a piece of equipment for that purpose in existence, so I’d stop being a musician and start being an engineer for a few days” that for me is the epitome of being a sound scientist. That’s how I feel my relationship to music technology is.”

What are some of your favourite Bocuma Synths products, and why?

Emmanuel answers: “Great question! My favourite is always the module I’m currently working on. From the modules we currently have, I’m really proud of Esquivel, our VCF. 

Reason is, that is simple in terms of use but it seems people like its sound. That module was actually adopted very quickly by a couple of Mexican electronic musicians and it became part of their creative workflow, that’s very special to me.”

Design & Development

How do you go about designing and developing new products, and what is your approach to innovation?

These days I am more exposed to an international market and that has increased difficulty quite a bit. I say this in a very positive way, I really like this is happening to me as a designer because its making me think outside of the box and making me expand from my comfort zone. 

So I’d say it all starts with being informed about what’s happening not only in the synth scene but with technology in general. By being exposed to this kind of information, almost inevitably the dots will start to connect and a new idea will form. 

At this stage I just let my mind wander and then I start to ground things up a little bit by thinking about it in a more realistic way. 

Lots of paper notes and sketching happen here. From there, I usually follow an agile framework (this is a way of managing engineering projects, popular in the software industry) like the ones I learnt back in the day on the product development firm I was talking about. 

It roughly follows a sequence of having an ugly protoboard prototype with lots of cables, chips, noise and defects to slowly move onto a finished product that is usually tested by a couple of users close to Bocuma, with this testing I'm able to refine my ideas further and then move onto manufacturing.

Your company is based in Mexico. How has being based in Mexico impacted the growth and development of Bocuma Synths?

There are a lot of advantages living in a city where electronics manufacturing is a big part of the culture. However it can be complicated too, for example, in Mexico its really complex to start a business.

Sadly, our country’s issues with drug cartels makes it really hard for the little guy to formalise things in terms of taxes, money coming into your bank account, importing and exporting. So that’s been difficult to navigate. On the other hand, its such an advantage to be so close to the U.S. my distributor’s warehouse is in California, so its super easy to send my stuff over to them.

Business technicalities aside, I think Mexico is full of ingenuity and we have been a part of music technology history for ages! Look at Fender, the immensely popular guitar brand, and all of other studio equipment and instrument brands that have been manufacturing in Mexico. 

This history creates a lot of expertise and know-how that often goes unnoticed by the general public, but its there for people like ourselves to use, if you know where to look for it. 

Also, lets not forget Mexico’s enormous cultural heritage. That alone really fosters creativity.

Collaborations & Growth

How important is it for you to have collaborations with artists, other brands and the community, and what have been some of your favourite collaborations to date? 

Very important, Bocuma Synths exists for musicians and artists! I dream of a world full of sound and great music and this is the way I like to contribute to that vision. 

It’s really nice to work with talented people. As an example of what Bocuma Synths has led me to is my collaboration with Efren and Fernando from Paradox Effects, a pedal company from Tijuana, Baja California. These guys are the leading brand in Mexico for guitar pedals, and what they are doing is just beautiful and pure and so authentic. I was very honoured to be invited to a talk in Tijuana last year and it was super inspiring to see their vision in action.

Another friendship Im really fond of is the one I have with Luis, a.k.a. ESPCTRL, an electronic music performer. He acquired our Esquivel module and later he shared his experience with us. We have been geeking out ever since. 

Earlier this year I met Mike Moreno, in my opinion that guy is a genius when it comes to DSP, pure data and the like. I knew about his work and I was so fortunate to have him call me one day saying he was in Guadalajara and wondering if I’d like to have lunch. 

I mean, the guy was “wondering”! Of course I wanted to have lunch. We are collaborating on things now and its been a superb experience!

The music technology industry is constantly evolving. How do you see Bocuma Synths adapting and evolving over the next few years, and what are your plans for the future?

Bocuma is in a very special position at the moment, where I’m able to try out new ideas but also start defining a stronger identity. Im really happy we are now able to sell worldwide, but this also needs a stronger focus on brand identity, vision, etc. 

I’m redefining things a little bit and thinking about an ecosystem of devices as a whole, a more definite set of tools geared toward specific kinds of musicians and artists. When it comes to music technology brands, there is a huge amount of talent out there, so Im looking forward to representing my country and my vision in that space.


Does Bocuma Synths get involved in any social and educational initiatives and can you talk about some of these initiatives and why they are important to you and the company?

We do workshops from time to time, although the pandemic put a hard stop to them. Synths in Mexico are still not very well understood or accessible I don’t think, so for me, having these kind of activities its important because sharing the beauty of synths is a strong part of Bocuma!

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who are interested in starting their own music technology companies?

First, you need to love this. If there’s any doubt about how much you love this, don’t get into it. 

Then, learn as you go. The means of mass production and communication are at your disposal in a way they have never been before, not using those equates to a sin. Consistency trumps talent, discipline will become freedom. Roll the dice and prepare for the long haul. The world needs you, it’s worth it!

Sumo Modular Synth from Bocuma

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