Mexico is home to some of the most diverse music in the world, celebrating the local culture throughout the country. Influenced by Mexico's peoples and their past, it celebrates life and love. It talks of history, legends, and overcoming oppression. Above all, it is a vibrant part of Mexican life.
Anyone interested in the Mexican culture must know about the most popular of its expressions: music. Through history, it has experienced a huge evolution, from the sound of the drums of a Mayan or Aztec ceremony to the modern expressions of Mexican rap.
© Ernest McGray, Jr. - Sculpture of Mexican Dancers
This evolution occurred in an additive, rather than destructive, manner. That means that, far from replacing one music style with another, Mexican music incorporates previous rhythms and sounds into new ones. Although recently almost every young Mexican music artist chooses modern musical styles as a way of expression, the most widely known “product” of the Mexican music history is The Mariachi.
Dressed in traditional silver studded 'charro' suits with a matching sombrero, the presence of Mariachis is almost a requirement on national celebrations or public parties and “fiestas”, weddings and large family parties, which often feature two or three different bands that play different kinds of Mexican music.
© Loïc Cantillana Escobar - Traditional Mariachi Clothing (Jalisco, Mexico)
The term “Mariachi” comes from two of the many native languages of Mexico, the Nahuatl (used mostly by the ancient Aztecs), and the Coca (a language known to be used by many independent Mayan tribes). It was initially used to refer to a dance performed by a group of dancers on a wooden platform and it was an equivalent to the Spanish term “Fandango”. Nowadays, however, Mariachi refers to a certain music style and the band playing this type of music.
© matt_bruensteiner - Mariachi Ensemble
The Mariachi originated in the region of Jalisco, more exactly in the city of Guadalajara. At first, the Mariachi ensembles traveled from town to town singing about very common subjects, mostly love. This led to their style spreading throughout all Mexico, and soon it was the highest representative of Mexican music.
A typical Mariachi ensemble was formed by four or five guitars, a “guitarrón” (a sort of a large bass guitar), violins, some “vihuelas” (a kind of guitar with a round back), and a harp with 28 to 40 strings. In some regions of Mexico a small snare drum was commonly included into the ensemble.
© squeakychu - Mariachi Band
Among the Mexican music played by Mariachis are famous tunes like “La Bamba”, “Cielito Lindo”, “La Cucaracha” and the extensively known Mexican hat dance.
Like the American country tunes, Ranchera music celebrates love, family life, and patriotic stories. This is music from Mexico's impressive rural country side and it uses a type of yell called “El Grito Mexicano” that sets it apart from other styles.
Early Ranchera music was rebellious. It grew out of dislike for the aristocratic music preferred by the old rulers of Mexico. After the revolution, Mexican music coming from the people became far more popular.
© erika frank - Ranchera Musicians
Also called 'Grupero', Norteno music uses an accordion and a 'bajo sexto' or twelve string guitar along with other instruments. New migrants in Northern Mexico blended European waltzes and polka with Ranchero music back in the late 19th century. Today, this music has a fast polka-like beat and it is still popular in the Northern parts of the country.
© beavela - Norteno Musicians
Mexico is a large country. Over the years, a number of regional flavors of Mexican music have developed.
© Drew Leavy - Mexican Ribbon Dancers
Mexico has many pop stars and plenty of its own pop music. The genre is dominated by teen pop bands and now-grown former teen pop stars. Unlike American pop, Mexican pop bands have both boys and girls as singers and musicians in the same bands. Today, many Mexican pop groups release songs both in Spanish and English.
© Jorge Mejía Peralta - Marco Antonio Solis, one of the most renowned Mexican pop artists
Mexico has produced many great operas since La Partenope was first performed in 1711. Early opera was strongly influenced by European styles. By the 19th century, Mexican composers had found their own voices in operas such as Guatimotzin. It is about the last Aztec ruler defending against the Spanish. Another famous opera is Tata Vasco. It uses native melodies to tell the story of the first bishop of Michoacan.
Classical music in Mexico is considered one of the first contributors to the modern New World culture. For years Mexico produced some of the best musicians and compositions in this part of the world. Today's art music is dominated by avant-garde composers and jazz players such as Richard Lemus, Tino Contreras, Popo Sanchez and many more.
© Oscar Alcalá - Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico, where various Mexican operas held their premieres
There are as many famous Mexican musicians as there are types of music.