Mariachi is ranchera sung by bands or orchestras dressed in fancy charro cowboy outfits. Ranchera is a Mexican folk music. It’s sort of a Mexican blues.
Mariachi and ranchera are one of the Regional Mexican styles, the most popular category of Latin music in the United States.
Saturday, October 5, 2019
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BROOKLYN MUSEUM: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
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January 25 – 28, 2018
Mariachi & Ranchera New Yorkers
The Mariachi & Ranchera World
Ranchera has the “Grito Mexicano” (mexican cry) in it. It’s the sound of someone weeping, or if you ever lived in the desert, you may recognize the howl of coyotes at a kill.
The music is Mexican but has similarities with the blues. Ranchera has the Grito Mexicano in it and the blues has its own wailing cry which derives from ululation (trilling) and the Islamic call to prayer through West Africa. One of the early mariachi songs is “La Negra” (The Black Person). We are just sensing, but wouldn’t be at all surprised if there is an African root. Mexico does have Afro-Mexican communities and Veracruz, the gateway to Mexico City, is a Caribbean city. Come to think of it, the founding families of Los Angeles, California were Mexican, but most were not Indigenous or Spanish, they were Black.
Ranchera and mariachi used to be the music of poor country folk. Modern mariachi developed in Jalisco and is now associated with Guadalajara the capital. After the Mexican Revolution (1910-1924), the Mexican government promoted mariachi as a national music. It was the beginning of radio broadcasting in Mexico, so mariachi became very popular.
Mariachi Los Camperos is the mariachi orchestra that professionalized, popularized and standardized mariachi in the United States. They founded the first mariachi dinner theater, La Fonda on Wilshire Blvd in Westlake, Los Angeles. [Editor Keith: My parents used to take me there when I was little. I loved it.]
Ranchera and mariachi is the sound of parks on Sundays across the United States. In New York City, street musicians play it on the subways for tips. Latin Grammy winners Flor de Toloache are New York City’s all-woman mariachi. They are really something.
Mariachi and ranchera are related. Rancheras are Mexican folk songs. They are usually sung solo with a simple guitar accompaniment. Mariachis are bands or orchestras. They play wearing fancy charro gentleman cowboy outfits.
From simple roots in the cantina (small town Mexican bar), mariachi has grown into a festive party music popular across the Latin world. It’s traditional to have mariachi for big birthdays and weddings. Mariachi songs are also popular in karaoke which is often the only entertainment in small towns.
The typical mariachi group has guitars, violins and trumpets. The guitars include the iconic guitarrón bass guitar and a vihuela for leads.
Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán is one of Mexico’s oldest and most famous mariachis. The band was founded in the late 1890s by Gaspar Vargas. It backed many famous singers like Lola Beltrán and appeared in many movies. The son Silvestre Vargas and music director Ruben Fuentes standardized many mariachi arrangements.
Mariachi Los Camperos is one of the most famous mariachis in the United States. They founded the first mariachi dinner theater, La Fonda, in Los Angeles. There they trained two generations of mariachis in the United States. Los Camperos were one of the orchestra’s behind Linda Ronstadt’s iconic album “Canciones de mi Padre” (1987). They were also the orchestra for New York City Opera’s first mariachi opera “Cruzar la cara de la luna” (Crossing the face of the moon) in 2018.
Flor de Toloache is one of New York City’s most famous mariachis. The all-woman band has won a Latin Grammy.
“La Cucaracha” (The Cockroach) is one of the most famous mariachi songs. “Las Mañanitas” is played for birthdays and patron saint festivals.
Mariachi’s origins are lost in the haze of time, but rancheras are country music. The rural form developed an urban form in Guadalajara, Jalisco. In the 1920s, radio was just coming of age. After the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) the new Mexican government promoted mariachi in an effort to forge a Mexican identity.
Flor de Toloache
Flor de Toloache is New York City’s own Latin Grammy nominated, all-woman mariachi band. They rock both tradition and their own music. mariachinyc.com