these fiestas, whatever the reasons, have a common element
Music as well as pictorial art has a rich and diverse history. It
looks like Mexicans have a musical accompaniment for every act in
life. The driver of a car runs his radio on high volume while the
guitarist gets into a bus playing his instrument. The singer in
rags and tatters with a worn sombrero recites his old songs on the
market place. A Marimba group set their instruments under the shade
of a residential avenue, play a first air and wait for someone to
ask for another one.
A few instruments teach us about the Pre-Hispanic
music : high notes from the chrimia, tones of the conque, or tinkling
of the huehuetl. These, among hundreds of other wind or percussion
instruments, prove the ingenuity of the musicians in prehispanic
time. Spaniards introduced new musical forms and a big diversity
of stringed instruments that quickly spread out to the most remote
areas of Mexico. Sometimes they were modified depending
on the genius local craft. Look at the rustic Huichols
violins and the Lacandóns
mandolins made from gourds. During the Colonial time, Spanish musicians
and dance bands toured Mexico. The romances, the
malagueñas, the fandangos from Old Spain took root and throughout
the years a new music developed.
Photo above : ballet
Amalia Hernandez Mexico City
Every State owns its own music as well as its cooking or craft.
Five of them stand out by the treasures and popular repertories
State of Jalisco,
Tierra caliente — hot land,
close to the coast, at the border of the state of Michoacán, State of Guerrero,
the coastal area in the state of Veracruz,
called the Jarocha,
The Huasteca, in the northeastern part, vast land composed with
parts of the states of Veracruz, Hidalgo,
San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas,
Quéretaro and Puebla.
Everyone has its « sones », airs, which accompany poems
or coplas and often also a dance —usually a rhythmical zapateado.
The orchestration, the rhythm, the musical themes and the execution
of the dance vary according to the place.
picture : musicians band in Tlen Huicana of Veracruz (harp Jarocha)
from the state of Jalisco, is
known outside Mexico. It evokes mariachis bands
with their charro costumes adorned with silver buttons and their
loud and dazzling trumpets. In fact this instrument came recently.
The orchestration is also composed of violins, the guitarra de golpe,
the small vihuela with four strings (from 4 to 6 strings depending
on the areas) and the guitarrón — bass guitar with
The word mariachi, from French “marriage” evokes
the vocation of the group at the beginning, i.e. music in wedding
celebrations. A lot of soldiers from the French
Expeditionary Force in 1863-1867 didn’t go home for different
reasons. When marrying local girls, they wanted a wedding like in
their country with violins. A lover wanting to give a nocturnal
serenade to his girl friend at the expense of the neighbors’
sleep, also asked the mariachi bands ! The custom of the mariachi
started in Guadalajara. The
harp was replaced by the guitarrón. The trumpets were added
around 1935. Now, they characterize the mariachis. Click
in order to consult their site and listen to their music.
You can see mariachis on the main place in almost
every big city. In Mexico City, the
meeting place is Plaza
Garibaldi. The traditional costume of the mariachi is the charro
(hat, soft tie, bontonaduras –buttons that adorn the costumes
- botin –boots – and belt). You can see them every night
in the Capital.
Pirekua, traditional song of
Inscribed in 2010 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Pirekua is a traditional music of the indigenous P’urhépecha communities of the State of Michoacán, Mexico, sung by both men and women. Its diverse mix of styles draws on African, European and indigenous American origins, with regional variations identified in 30 of the 165 P’urhépecha communities. A Pirekua, which is generally sung with a gentle rhythm, may also be presented in non-vocal styles using different beats such as sones (3/8 time) and abajeños(6/8 time). Pirekua can be sung solo, in duets or trios, or accompanied by choral groups, string orchestras and mixed orchestras (with wind instruments). Pirériecha (Pirekua singers and interpreters) are renowned for their creativity and interpretations of older songs. Lyrics cover a wide range of themes from historical events to religion, social and political thought and love and courtship, making extensive use of symbolism. Pirekua acts as an effective medium of dialogue between the P’urhépecha families and communities that practise it, helping to establish and reinforce bonds.Pirériechas also act as social mediators, using songs to express sentiments and communicate events of importance to the P’urhépecha communities. Pirekua has traditionally been transmitted orally from generation to generation, maintaining its currency as a living expression, marker of identity and means of artistic communication for more than a hundred thousand P’urhépecha people. Extract from Unesco website. See the slideshow and the video on their website.
The "sone" from tierra caliente (hot land), in Michoacán,
is the precursor of the jalisciense son. The rhythm, the orchestration
and the themes are similar. The Jalisco and the Michoacán might
have formed an only one cultural ensemble. The typical element of
these “sones” is a big rustic harp whose sound box is
used as a drum to give a rhythmic and loud accompaniment to the
melodic lines of the violins, vihuelas and guitarras de golpe.
Left picture : portait of a mariachi
"sone" guerrerense is different from the others « sones » by adding a drum
to the stringed instruments. Its origins are numerous and according
to the legend it could have been influenced by the songs of Chilean
shipwrecked sailors off the coasts of Guerrero.
These songs, a variation of the « son », are called
chilenas. The gusto, another variation, is typical from the Coast
where, during the fiestas, dancers tap in rhythm the ground of an
upraised stage, or artesa.
from the coast of Veracruz is the richer, the most spread out of
all the forms of Mexican popular music. The mixture with the African
blood of the inhabitants of this area shows through the complex
rhythms coming from Spain. The poets are improvising and new verses
modernize constantly traditional songs.
"sone"huasteco and the regional dance called "huapango" come from the
Spanish fandango. The brisk rhythms of the jarana violin and the
huapanguera with eight strings accompany a fast zapateado danced
on a wooden upraised platform that sounds like a drum under the
feet of the dancers.
Danza de Viejitos
- Jarácuaro, Michoacán
- The dance of the little old men (viejitos),
very popular in Mexico, is danced with
masks in the Michoacán
The Corrido, national more than regional, is a storytelling ballad
emerged out of the Spanish romance. It is spread out of almost whole
Mexico. Before the development of the ways of communication,
the singers of corrido gave a kind of bulletin of musical information;
they transmitted from a village to another one the current news.
The corrido went essential during the Mexican revolution. At this
time, event followed event with a fast pace and every exploit from
Pancho Villa served
as a theme for a new ballad.
picture : group of young callejoneadas
picture : folkloric group from San Cristóbal de las Casas
For all the friends of the indigenous music of Mexico,
look at the project of the National Commission for the Development
of Indigenous Peoples which tries to make known, through the web,
the voices of the cultural and musical diversity from every part
of Mexico : .