Brazil is not a country normally associated with mariachi music, but that is changing quickly.
Southwestern College’s Mariachi Garibaldi recently participated in Brazil’s Festival Internacional de Folclore. The San Diego, California community college group, directed by Dr. Jeff Nevin, performed for six consecutive days (July 26-31) at this international event held in Nova Petrópolis, located in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. The 42nd annual celebration presented diverse folk ensembles from different parts of Brazil, the Americas, Europe, and the Orient.
Nova Petrópolis is an unusual Brazilian town, in that most of its 20,000 residents are of German descent. “It’s like a little Germany,” says director Nevin, referring to the town’s architecture and customs, and the fact that German is still widely spoken there. “But they really enjoyed the mariachi,” he assures us. “We received an amazing audience response.” Mariachi Garibaldi performed a popurrí of sambas especially prepared for this tour. They assumed it was unique, but then a group member ran across a YouTube video of Mariachi Vargas playing “The Girl From Ipanema” on a 1980s television show! In all fairness, Mariachi Los Monarcas had already recorded this and other sambas back in the 1960s. As the saying goes, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”
According to reports, Brazil has only a few scattered mariachi groups. Nonetheless, considerable interest for this music appears to exist in that country. Completely unbeknown to the San Diego group, a series of mariachi workshops and concerts in different Brazilian cities was scheduled to begin only a month after their departure.
The Encontro Brasileiro do Mariachi is a series designed to introduce Brazilians to mariachi music. The events, which span the entire month of September, are scheduled to be held in university music schools and conservatories in different Brazilian cities including Brasilia, Natal, Santos, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro. The tour was the brainchild of Beatriz Paredes, Mexico’s ambassador to Brazil, and is co-sponsored by COMUS (National Council for Music in Mexico) and CONACULTA (National Council for Culture and the Arts).
Fernando de Santiago
Leading the workshops is vihuela player Fernando de Santiago, son of the late guitarrón virtuoso Natividad de Santiago, who played with Mariachi de Tecalitlán for three decades. Fernando was a founding member of Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán, and former musical director for Pepe Aguilar. He currently devotes himself to producing, arranging, and directing, and runs his own recording studio, Ranch Factory, in Mexico City. The theme song sung by Pedro Fernández for the current soap opera Hasta el Fin del Mundo is de Santiago’s creation. Legendary Mexican guitarist Miguel Peña will be his assistant for the Encontro. Mariachi Nacional de México from Mexico City, led by Antonio Covarrubias, and Mariachi Real de América from Puerto Vallarta, led by Cristian Lupercio, will also participate.
Fernando de Santiago (far left) in Natal, Brazil with Brazilian students and Mariachi Real de América
“We’re hoping this will launch a mariachi movement in Brazil,” says Fernando de Santiago.
For recent updates, consult the Facebook pages of COMUS and of Antonio Covarrubias, director of Mariachi Nacional de México, one of the participating groups.
For those who understand Portuguese, the following links give information on the Encontro Brasileiro do Mariachi:
Programação do Encontro Brasileiro do Mariachi em Natal
Encontro Brasileiro do Mariachi traz espetáculo gratuito
Encontro Brasileiro do Mariachi em Natal
O som do México na Escola de Música da UFRN