Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mexican sones : Mariachi, Huasteco y Jarocho

Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán - El Mariachi (buy)


Last year I made a series of posts about Tejano music, mostly played by Mexican immigrants in Southern texas.
The book Americana by Gérard Herzhaft is the main source for this post.

Today I'll post songs of 3 different styles of sones, and later I will post about other sones, bolero and canción.

- First, the son mariachi , probably the most popular style of Mexican music. This music comes from the Jalisco state, on the Pacific coast. The term "mariachi" probably comes from the French word "mariage" (wedding). Bands from Jalisco were invited to play at weddings and parties by powerful people in Mexico. President Profirio Diaz was a big fan of mariachi orchestras. The most famous of all is el Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, created in 1897 and still active now. The traditional Jalisco mariachi ensembles did not feature trumpets, but they became so popular (and more powerful than harps) that Mariachi Vargas started adding trumpets in the 1940s.
This is one of their first recordings.



Los Camperos de Valles - La Pasión (buy)

Another vibrant regional style is the son huasteco, aka huapengo tipico, which comes from the state area of Northeastern Mexico called La Huasteca. This is an indian style with Arab and Andalusian influences, relying on violin, huapanguera guitar and jarana huasteca (the small 5 string guitar), and often using falsetto singing. The violin solos are very intense, and remind me of the gypsy music of Central Europe.
Los Camperos de Valles (pictured above) are the most famous and internationally known ensemble, having recorded for Smithsonian Folkways and toured in the whole world, although they still play at parties and weddings in their home state.
You can also read great article in Spanish about the son huasteco.

Guillermo Velázquez is another famous traditional musician who plays sone huasteco and arribeño, another genre from the Central states using the same instruments but with strong Spanish medieval influences in its lyrics.

Guillermo Velázquez Y Los Leones de la Sierra de Xichú - El Triunfo (buy)




Illustration : Enrique Valderrama

And last but not least, here's the son jarocho from the Southern Vera Cruz state on the Caribbean coast, a distinct, dynamic style. As the musicians from Conjunto Tenocelomeh explain on their great site, sonjarocho.com , " Just as the Son Huasteco from east-central Mexico and the west coast Son de Mariachi have their own characteristics the Son Jarocho can be distinguished by its percussive rhythms, syncopation, vocal style, and improvisation in its harmonic and rhythmic framework and verse." Read the whole article here. The main instruments are the harp and two local, small guitars, the requinto and the jarana. Some ensembles add bass guitar, percussions, Spanish guitars, etc..
"La Bamba", one of the most famous Mexican folk songs (thanks to Ritchie Valens and Los Lobos) comes from the Jarocho repertoire. Here is one version by Graciana Silva, a veteran harp player from the Vera Cruz state.

Graciana Silva - La Bamba (buy)


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Most people think it’s cheesy when the see and hear native performers. I think it’s amazing that these people have kept their tradition and culture alive. Some are mostly caught up in catching up with the rest of the world that they choose to neglect who they are. Mariachi music may not be for everyone but we have to respect these people for these values.

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