The music from Mexico is contagious. You can't help but start taping your foot to the beat of the Mariachi singers. Most people confuse the name "Mariachi" with "Mariachi Band". "Mariachi Band" is like saying, Big Band Band.Listen to a few of our favorites while you read about this cultural experience. When you click on the link it will open a new browser page so you will need to click back here to keep reading.
Mariachi is a genre of music that originated in the State of Jalisco, Mexico. It is an integration of stringed instruments highly influenced by the cultural impacts of the historical development of Western Mexico. Throughout the history of mariachi, musicians have experimented with brass, wind, and percussion instruments. In addition, socio historical factors have influenced the repertoire in terms of the performance of diverse regional song forms as well as the evolution of the performance attire. Mariachi originated in Guadalajara. Mariachi is important to the study of Mexican music because, as an ensemble created during the colonial period, it found its essence during the post colonial era, blossomed during the nationalist era, and made a global impact during contemporary times. Throughout this development, particularly since the nationalist era, mariachi music has become emblematic of Mexican music by appropriating various Mexican regional song forms, experimenting in popular radio programs, appearing in the first Mexican films, and performing during presidential campaigns (Loza 1993, Turino 2003, Sheehy 2005, de la Mora 2006, Jáuregui 2007).
The mariachi ensemble generally consists of violins, trumpets, an acoustic guitar, a vihuela (a high-pitched, five-string guitar), a guitarrón (a large acoustic bass) and, on occasion, a harp. They dress in silver studded charro outfits with wide-brimmed hats. The original Mariachi were Mexican street musicians or buskers. Many mariachis are professional entertainers doing paid gigs in the mainstream entertainment industry. Professionals are normally skilled at more than one instrument, and they also sing. They sometimes accompany ranchera singers such as Vicente Fernandez or even pop star Luis Miguel. Although ranchera singers dress in a traje de charro (Charro suit), they are not mariachis. Besides the typical instrumentation, mariachi music, as well as many other forms of traditional Mexican music, is also noted for the grito mexicano, a yell that is done at musical interludes within a song, either by the musicians and/or the listening audience. An example of this would be the mariachi players singing "AY YA YAY YA!"
Although mariachis are hired to play at events such as weddings and other formal occasions, such as a quinceañera (a girl's fifteenth birthday celebration), they are very often used to serenade women because many of the songs in a typical repertoire have as a theme the desire to touch the heart of a woman. Trios of mariachis can be found for hire in different places at night (the best known venues are Plaza de los Mariachis in Guadalajara and Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico City) for the purposes of serenading. Mother's days are also another popular occasion for mariachis. Hiring prices can vary immensely and are normally not cheap.
Current mariachi instrumentation includes a guitarrón, a vihuela, a guitar, violins, and trumpets. Some groups might use a guitarra de golpe, a mariachi harp or even a flute. From the 70's some singers have occasionally added other instruments such as accordion, organ, keyboard, harmonica, saxophone and even drums, although they were considered additions, never part of the mariachi instrumentation itself. During the last years ranchera singers as Alejandro Fernández and Pepe Aguilar, have made fusions of mariachi with orchestra and drums/percussions giving birth to a mariachi/pop ballads crossover style.
In the complete Mariachi group today there are as many as six to eight violins, two trumpets, and a guitar – all standard European instruments. Then there is a high-pitched, round-backed guitar called the vihuela, which when strummed in the traditional manner gives the Mariachi its typical rhythmic vitality; a deep-voiced guitar called the guitarrón which serves as the bass of the ensemble; and a Mexican folk harp, which usually doubles the bass line, but also ornaments the melody. While these three instruments have European origins, in their present form they are strictly Mexican.