On September 1st, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán released the group’s latest album, Boleros, Baladas y Bachatas. The recording was made earlier this year in the Mexico City studio of ex-Los Bukis member Joél Solís. Seven of the arrangements are by Carlos Martínez, four by Miguel Ángel Barrón, two by Pepe Martínez Jr., and one by Rubén Fuentes. The CD contains seven boleros, three baladas, and four bachatas — genres it mixes and juxtaposes in interesting and untraditional ways.
Miguel, Gilberto, Carlos, and Pepe Jr. in the control booth
Songwriters from Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, Spain, and New York City are represented on this album. The repertory dates all the way from the 1950s, like “La Gloria Eres Tú” and “Contigo en la Distancia,” up to very recent hits like “Darte un Beso.” Vocal chores are shared equitably between the group’s impressive vocal lineup (see list below).
Mariachi Vargas’ violin section records latest CD
The CD’s opening track, “Llorando Por Dentro,” revives one of Los Hermanos Castro’s most gorgeous boleros from the late 1960s. If it reminds you of “Yo Sin Ti” — a song that Pedro Rey sang on Mariachi Los Camperos’ classic 1968 LP …En la Fonda — it’s no coincidence. That was a Jesús Rodríguez de Híjar arrangement of another Hermanos Castro bolero that Mariachi Vargas unfortunately never recorded. Due to its complexity, four-part vocal harmony has never been common in mariachi music, but I suspect many groups will be attempting it once they hear Carlos Martínez’s breathtaking arrangement of this long-forgotten gem.
“Hoy Tengo Ganas de Ti,” a mid-1970s Spanish balada, is given an interesting touch of huapango-son by its arranger, Miguel Ángel Barrón. Prince Royce’s bachata “Darte un Beso,” one of the biggest international Latin hits of 2013, is one of the most rhythmically catchy songs on this CD. It’s followed by a remake of maestro Rubén Fuentes, Mariachi Vargas, and Heriberto Molina’s 1980 classic “Llegaste Tú,” this time in the voice of Daniel Martínez.
“Todo Cambió,” a triple-platinum hit for Mexican pop trio Camila in 2006, is a balada in the style of American R&B vocal groups of half a century ago. Two minor-key songs, Prince Royce’s bachata, “Te Perdiste Mi Amor,” and Paz Martínez’s balada “Entre el Cielo y la Tierra,” follow.
Sandwiched between two classic Cuban boleros, “Contigo en la Distancia” and “La Gloria Eres Tú,” is yet another Prince Royce bachata, “Un Beso,” followed by the popular Mexican bolero “Vuélveme a Querer.” After Romeo Santos’ self-descriptive bachata “Siete Días” comes the beautiful but little-known Argentinian bolero “Algo Contigo.” The album concludes with the romantic Spanish bolero-balada “Sólamente Tú.”
The history of mariachi music is one of change and controversy, particularly in terms of song types performed. Mariachis didn’t commonly interpret boleros until the 1950s, and baladas didn’t appear in the mariachi repertory until the late 1960s. Diehard mariachi fans and musicians originally opposed the incorporation of danzones, clásicas, joropos, and cumbias, but these, and other introduced genres, were eventually absorbed, at least to some extent, into the mariachi repertoire.
“Mariachi Vargas has always been daring, since back in the days of maestro Rubén Fuentes’s huapangos and La Nueva Dimensión. The group has always been in the vanguard, but without abandoning the traditional genres that represent the true essence of mariachi music,” says Carlos Martínez, the group’s musical director.
Carlos Martínez and don Rubén Fuentes
Boleros and baladas appear to be here to stay, but whether or not the bachata becomes a permanent fixture in mariachi music remains to be seen.
Vocalists heard on this album are:
José “Pepe” Martínez Jr.
Llorando Por Dentro: Andrés, Carlos & Arturo
Hoy Tengo Ganas de Ti: Manuel & Andrés
Darte un Beso: Andrés
Llegaste Tú: Daniel
Todo Cambió: Andrés, Pepe, Carlos & Arturo
Te Perdiste de mi Amor: Pepe, Alberto & Manuel
Entre la Tierra y el Cielo: Alberto, Pepe & Arturo
Contigo en la Distancia: Arturo, Pepe & Daniel
Un Beso: Manuel
La Gloria Eres Tú: Arturo, Andrés, Pepe & Carlos
Vuélveme a Querer: Pepe, Manuel & Carlos
Siete Días: Pepe, Manuel & Carlos
Algo Contigo: Pepe, Carlos & Manuel
Sólamente Tú: Pepe, Carlos & Manuel
Mariachi Vargas will be performing selections from Boleros, Baladas y Bachatas, along with some of their more traditional songs, on November 22, as part of the 20th annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza concert. This new CD, the distribution of which is currently limited, will be available for sale at that time. If you’re able to come to San Antonio on that date, you won’t want to miss this historic mariachi music celebration! Click here for more information.