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To much of the world, the distinctive music from a mariachi group represents Mexico and her people.
If hot dogs, apple pie and rock ‘n roll are America; then tacos, pico de gallo and mariachi are Mexico.
Originating in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, this country music was originally looked down upon because of its humble village roots. However, thanks to innovations and technology and a passionate tradition, mariachi can be found from backyard quinceañeras to formal venues like the Olympics and presidential inaugurations.
A mariachi ensemble usually features a small 7-member or 12-member group featuring violins, guitars, trumpets and two uniquely Mexican instruments: a guitarrón, an acoustic bass guitar, and a vihuela, a high-pitched 5-string guitar. For many Americans exposure comes from weddings, restaurant musician trios and media use of the popular Jarabe Tapatio or Mexican hat dance. The sound dates back to the 1870s but the colorful, ornate charro outfits with studded jackets and wide-brimmed hats arrived in the 1940s.
Mariachi gained much respectability in 1934 when the renowned Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán were invited to perform at Mexican president Lázaro Cardenas’ inauguration. According to mariachimusic.com, in the 1930s standardized arrangements and the colorful charro outfit featuring waist-length jacket, form-fitting wool pants and embroidery and silver buttons became a tradition and by the ‘40s and ‘50s radio, television and movies featured the music and groups with lead singer/actors.
By 2008 the all-female Mariachi Mujer 2000 performed to a crowd of 90,000 at Beijing’s National Stadium for the opening of the Summer Olympics and in 2011 the Los Angeles hard rock punk band El Bronx released “Mariachi Bronx” to critical acclaim.
Learning an instrument and musical style requires practice, discipline and commitment. In northwest Denver El Mariachi Juvenil de Bryant-Webster features students from 4th to 8th grades, led by principal and founder Pamela Liñan. The Denver middle school’s after-school program oversees more than 50 students who practice three times a week and have performed nationally.
“Expressive, rhythmic and with trumpets front and enter, it was exciting and engaging,” said Mariachi musician/author Daniel Sheehy in his book “Mariachi Music in America.” “The instruments and the way they are played are essential to the mariachi sound. The trumpet, violin and nylon-stringed guitar ... are the same versions ... used in orchestras, bands and guitar classes.”
On Saturday night the 12-piece Mariachi Cobre will perform at 7:30 p.m. with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Boetcher Auditorium. Tickets start at $25. Visit
www.tickets.coloradosymphony.org or visit King Soopers. Founded in 1971 in Tucson by brothers Randy and Steve Carrillo, Mariachi Cobre has been the Disney EPCOT Mexican pavilion group since 1982. It backed Linda Ronstadt on her 1987 album “Canciones de mi Padre” and subsequent concert tours, and in 2000 and 2001 performed, recorded and toured with the Boston Pops.
On Sunday, May 6 the free outdoor 10th Annual Cinco de Mayo Concert Un Toque de México will feature Mariachi Sol de Mi Tierra and the Colorado Symphony together at 11:30 a.m. at the downtown Denver Civic Center Greek Amphitheater.
“We are thrilled that this season represents the 10th year of collaboration between the NEWSED Community Development Corp., the Mexican Consulate’s Office, the Colorado Symphony, and many local members of the community,” said Anthony Pierce, CSO’s vice president of Artistic Operations. “We’re also thrilled to announce that we’re going to present to the community a concert to celebrate the independence of Mexico in September.”
Next week La Voz will feature Tejano music with influences from New Mexico musicians. ¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!