Mexican Music & Dance
Fun to say, and even more fun to listen to, many people consider Mariachi music to be the music that best represents Mexican culture. Mariachi is Mexican Folk Music, and distinguished from other types of music by the instruments, attire, and the songs themselves.
A modern Mariachi group will include violins, trumpets, guitars, a vihuela, and a guitarron. The vihuela and the guitarron give the group its distinct sound. The vihuela is a variation of a small guitar with a belly in the back and five treble strings. The guitarron resembles a large bass guitar, and also has a belly in the back. It has six strings tuned within an octave and a half range, and is the heart of the Mariachi ensemble.
The standard Mariachi costume for performing is known as “charro” or Mexican cowboy. Ankle boots, sombrero, mono or large bow tie, short jacket, snug trousers without back pockets and shiny buttons along the side, and a wide belt define the outfit. Some groups however choose to appear in traditional regional costumes. In Mexico, traditionally only males are allowed to be part of a Mariachi ensemble, but in the United States women are increasingly performing in Mariachi bands.
The rhythmic pattern distinguishes Mariachi music. It is an alteration between 3/4 and 6/8 with heavy syncopation. Trumpets and violins make extensive use of grace notes. Lyrics, for the most part, are humorous and not to be taken seriously.
The various Folklorico dances represent the different geographical regions in Mexico from which they originate. For example, Jalisco, located west of Mexico City, is considered to be the land of beautiful women, charros, and birthplace of Mariachi music. Jalisco dances are those of courtship, while, Veracruz, the oldest city along the eastern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, mixes Spanish, African and Carribean rhythms. Its dances contain diverse steps or “zapateados” with flamenco characteristics. Regardless of the region represented, colorful, flamboyant costuming is part of every performance. As with Mariachi, Folklorico groups can now be found throughout the United States.