Perspectives on Mariachi & Mexico and an Introduction to MariachiAND 2: Mariachi Ensembles and Musical & Poetic Forms
Mariachi KWL Chart
Mariachi is a traditional Mexican music and a fundamental element of Mexican culture. Traditional mariachi groups, made up of two or more members, wear regional costumes adapted from the charro costume and interpret a broad repertoire of songs on stringed instruments. Ensembles playing ‘modern mariachi’ include trumpets, violins, the vihuela, and guitarrón (bass guitar), and may have four or more musicians. The wide repertoire includes songs from different regions, jarabes, minuets, polkas, valonas, schottisches, waltzes, and serenades, in addition to corridos (typical Mexican ballads narrating stories of battles, outstanding deeds and love affairs) and traditional songs depicting rural life. Modern mariachi music has adopted other genres such as ranchera songs, the bolero ranchero, and even the cumbia from Colombia. The lyrics of mariachi songs portray love of the earth, hometown, native land, religion, nature, fellow countrywomen, and the strength of the country. Learning by ear is the main means of transmission of traditional mariachi, and the skill is usually passed down from fathers to sons and through performance at festive, religious, and civil events. Mariachi music transmits values of respect for the natural heritage of the regions of Mexico and local history in the Spanish language and the different Indian languages of Western Mexico.”
Traditionally, typically all strings
Violin (melody): like European counterpart
Requinto guitar (melody/harmony): smaller, deeper body, higher-pitched, & 6 nylon strings (plucked)
Vihuela Mexicana (harmony/rhythm): derived from Spanish vihuela; guitar-like, but with vaulted back & 5 nylon strings; like small guitarrón
Guitarra de golpe (rhythm): slightly bigger than vihuela with 5 bronze strings
Guitarrón (bass): looks like a big vihuela with 6 nylon strings
Arpa (bass & melody): served purposes of violin and guitarrón originally; now not as common
Trumpet added in the 1940s
After the Mexican Revolution (ca. 1910-1920), there was a big migration from people from different regions to Mexico City.
Urban mariachi groups integrated regional sones. Jesus Járegui challenges the common claim that Jalisco was the single geographical birthplace of mariachi. (Sturman, p. 198)
Urbanization and exchange caused variations and changes to occur in melody, rhythm, lyrics, structure, and instrumentation of mariachi.
Essential genres in mariachi music Canción ranchera