How about we warm up the season with a spicy Latin sound? No, not salsa or Afro-Cuban this time, but the signature music of Western and Northern Mexico and U.S. border regions—marriachi. The style had its roots in rural string bands in Guadalajara but took on new vigor when introduced to urban areas and fused with the brass of military bands. Often identified as wedding music by the mid-20th Century it became the virtual national music of Mexico.
Bands traditionally outfit themselves in elaborate charo [traditional Mexican rodeo] costumes and decorated sombreros. Ensembles vary in size but typically include fiddles, guitars, an acoustic bass guitar called a guitarrón, and trumpets. Accordions, harps, and other brass instruments are also sometimes included, but typically there is no percussion instrument. Musicians trade off on the lead and singing in a signature high tenor. The bands perform a variety of styles—rancheras, corridos, cumbias, boleros, ballads, sones, pasodobles, marches, polkas, and waltzes. Most song lyrics are about machismo, love, betrayal, death, politics, revolutionary heroes, and country life.Mariachi Sol de México and founder José Hernández, center
Despite its name Mariachi Sol de Méxicois an American band based in Los Angeles. It was founded in 1981 and continues to be led by José Hernández who came to the States with his parents from Mexicali at age 4 in 1962. He grew up in Pico Rivera, California and began to sing at four and play trumpet in his school music program at age ten. His interest in music eventually led him to study arranging and composition at the Grove School of Music in Hollywood from 1979 to 1982.
Hernández became the leading exponent of Mariachi music in the U.S. Mariachi Sol de Mexico tours internationally and sells records in the U.S., Mexico, and across Latin America. His Mariachi Heritage Society, a non-profit organization has taught the music to over 7,000 young people. He received a Grammy nomination in 2001 for the album Tequila con Limon. He has arranged and produced recordings for Vikki Carr, Jose Feliciano, and Shaila Durcal and collaborated with Selena, Luis Miguel, Linda Ronstadt, Vicente Fernández and Lola Beltrán. He also founded Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, America’s first all-female professional mariachi ensemble.
Platinum selling Sol de México has broken countless barriers in mariachi music, including becoming the first mariachi ensemble to be nominated for a Grammy. Their original rhythms, fresh sounds and inspiring ideas have energized the world of mariachi for over 30 years. They are especially noted for adapting non-traditional music to the genre including classical numbers, pop songs, and other world musical traditions.
On their 2008 album Navidad en América and in their annual concerts they display that versatility with numbers like The Nutcracker—Merry-Achi Christmas, a 12 minute adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. But today we will enjoy the band’s Christmas Medley which mixes American and Mexican seasonal music—Sleigh Ride, Noche de Paz, White Christmas, and Feliz Navidad.
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