What is Mariachi Music?
Stated in the simplest way, Mariachi is traditional Mexican music, but it embodies and represents so much more than those words describe. The roots of Mariachi date back hundreds of years. It is the music of Mexico’s country people, music that celebrates Mexican’s joys, struggles, and victories. It goes far beyond music. It is an artistic sum of cultural revolution expressed through a group of musicians dressed in traditional charro suits – it is the essence of Mexico and its people.
In today’s world, most people associate Mariachi with the musicians now commonly seen in restaurants or strolling the streets, dressed in silver studded charro outfits with wide-brimmed sombreros playing a variety of musical instruments. That image has become an iconic association with the country of Mexico itself.
Mariachi was born as a version of the Spanish theatrical orchestra containing violins, guitars, and a harp. Groups were small and generally were not known outside their local region. The musical form and ensemble of the Mariachi developed over time differently from region to region. The form that is familiar today began to take shape in the 19th century in the state of Jalisco. By the end of this time period the vihuela, two violins, and the guitarron had become the instruments of the Mariachi. Over time the Mariachi form has further evolved and has adapted to be able to perform an assortment of musical styles by incorporating additional instruments and musicians.
Mariachi music is truly a team effort, there is no lead singer, and everyone in the ensemble performs some vocalization even if only during the chorus. Different musicians sing the lead in different songs. Commonly the voice selected for the song is matched with the type of song in order to deliver the piece’s emotion in the most authentic way. Historically men have been the musicians in Mariachi groups, but today’s wonderfully evolving world has increased acceptance and participation by women. The female voice brings a beautiful dynamic to the group allowing for increased diversity in their repertoire. The songs themselves speak about machoism, love, betrayal, death, politics, revolutionary heroes, and even animals.
A Party’s Not a Party Without a Mariachi!
The Mariachi has and continues to be a huge part of celebrations for the Mexican people. Mariachis are a common form of entertainment at weddings, baptisms, quinceaneras, funerals, and holidays. This music is so anchored in Mexican history that it has its place at nearly all gatherings and celebrations.
Mariachis are also known for delivering musical messages of love with serenatas (serenade). Traditionally young people of the opposite sex were kept separated from each other and the serenata was a means of communication from a young man to a young woman that he is courting. The Mariachi delivers this beautiful message on the young man’s behalf usually beneath the window to the young lady’s bedroom.
In Mexico, it is also common to be woken up by the sounds of Las Mananitas in the early morning. This is a traditional song used to celebrate saint’s days and birthdays.
Mariachi music is no longer unique to Mexico, the lively and uplifting music has become globally recognized and appreciated.
What Can you Expect During a Mariachi Performance?
Undoubtedly you will enjoy a lively, colorful musical performance that exudes pure passion, history, and culture. The group will feature multiple musicians, using an assortment of musical instruments that are dressed in traditional charro attire. These aspects combine in a perfectly Mexican way to deliver a beautiful rendering of music and storytelling. Each song has its own rhythm, message, and style giving a Mariachi performance wonderful diversity that will leave you wanting more. The crowd around you will most definitely be singing along and having a great time so make sure to bring a good spirit and be ready to have some fun like you never have before!
At its root Mariachi music is something cultural, spiritual, and traditional that is unique to Mexico. A live Mariachi performance is a lifetime experience not to be missed!
Written By: Jessica Gomez