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Music and dances in Mexico
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
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"Every Mexican is a musician himself". Music and dances are part of the everyday life in Mexico.

ballet Amalia Hernandez in Mexico CityThe Central American people learned and perpetuated their history with songs. Until the Spanish prohibited it, they sang about their tribes, stars, Gods, hunting, love and future. The Spanish refrained from transcribing the words of these songs « full of diabolical stuff », as the missionaries said. And, for the same reason, the traditional dances were not allowed because they were always accompanied with music.
These songs always had lyrics : the most common instruments were the flute, whistle, drums and other percussion instruments, any kind of trumpet and the rattle. These instruments were different from the ones we design with the same names because they were made of sea shells, deer bones or terra cotta. The oldest one dates from at least 1500 BC. The teponaztli, a big round drum, accompanied the dances. The huehuetl, another drum, could reach 1.20 m (4 feet) high. It was played vertically. It was made from a big hollowed log and a stretched skin on top. It was often skillfully carved or painted with bright colors.
The whistles made of bamboo, terra cotta, bones or wood were carved or modeled in dog, monkey or bird shapes or such as Gods. The carapace of the sea turtle gave a percussion instrument called the ayotl, widespread in the whole country during the classic time. On the eastern coast, the same kinds of drums were carved and painted, sometimes covered with gold.

   Above picture : ballet Amalia Hernandez in Mexico City

They also made painted and adorned rattles from gourds. We could excuse the Spanish for not being sensible to the pentatonic music of the Aztecs but they at least could have appreciated one of the flutes with its two or three mouthpieces and a sixteen tones range.

The contemporary Mexican musicians gladly use pieces of Pre-Hispanic music in their works.
Manuel Ponce (born in 1886) studied in Italy and in Berlin before staying in Paris (from 1925 to 1933). Then he went to Mexico to teach musical folklore at the University of Mexico City. He also headed the National Conservatory in Mexico City.
Silvestre Revueltas (born in 1889), at the head of the Symphonic Orchestra of Mexico City, became famous in Europe in 1937. He owes his notoriety to hi film music.
Rodolfo Halffter, born in Madrid in 1900, became a Mexican citizen in 1939.
Ana Zakalow settled the choreography of her most famous ballet "Don Lindo de America".
Carlos Chavez (born in 1899), was, in 1928, at the origin of the creation of the Orchestra of the Union of Musicians inside the National Orchestra. He conducted this orchestra more than twenty seasons in a row, until he left in 1948. He composed several ballets, including "Los Cuatro Soles" and "La Hija de Colquide".
Blas Galindo-Dimas (born in 1910) joins the National Conservatory of Music in 1931. During 1941-1942, he studied composition in the USA with Aaron Copland. Its abundant catalogue of works includes symphonies, chamber music and arrangements for the chorus of popular Mexican songs.
musicians band in the Island of Janitzio (Pátzcuaro)



     Right picture : musicians band in the Island of Janitzio (Pátzcuaro)





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