- Festival pays homage to Mexico City mariachi pioneers
- Bogotá, Colombia offers mariachi master classes
- 20th annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza group competitions
are less than two months away
- Term ‘mariachi vocalist’ sparks controversy
Festival pays homage to pioneers
On Saturday, September 27, the Mexico City Musicians’ Union (SUTM) presented its 8th annual Festival of Mexican Music, at that city’s Julio Castillo Theater. Participants include Mariachi Juvenil Tecalitlán, and Mariachi de América de Jesús Rodríguez de Híjar. Operatic soprano Olivia Gorra, who will be debuted her first mariachi CD that day, also performed, accompanied by Mariachi Real de América.
As part of the aforementioned event, SUTM honored six pioneer mariachi musicians who have been active in Plaza Garibaldi and Mexico City for many years: Ramón Camacho “el Gulli,” (violin, Mariachi Perla de Occidente, Mariachi Los Mensajeros, Mariachi ‘70 de Pepe López, and Mariachi 2000 de Cutberto Pérez); José “Pepe” Chávez (guitar, Mariachi Nacional de Arcadio Elías; director, Mariachi Oro y Plata); David Figueroa (vihuela, Mariachi Tolteca de Miguel Martínez; director, Mariachi Blanco y Negro); Fidel Zavala (guitarrón, founding member of Mariachi Atotonilco).
Columbia offers mariachi master classes
Bogotá, Colombia offered its first International Mariachi Master Classes from September 22-24, 2014. The team of master teachers from Mexico City and Guadalajara includes Mario Moreno (vihuela, Mariachi Gama 1000 and other groups), Librado Martínez (guitarrón, Mariachi 2000 de Cutberto Pérez), Oscar Ortega (violin, Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán), and Gustavo Moreno (trumpet, Mariachi 2000 de Cutberto Pérez). Check out the Encuentro Internacional de Formación Musical del Mariachi en Colombia Facebook page for more information.
By the way, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán will also be in Bogotá soon, performing at the Royal Center on October 7-8, 2014.
Students from Brackenridge High School compete in 2013 competition
Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza group competitions are less than two months away!
Last year, I attended the 19th Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza group competitions. The energy level in general, and the musical level of most of the groups, was absolutely exhilarating! Over 1000 students participated in the following three categories: Elementary/Middle School, High School, and College/University. Click here for a list of 2013 Mariachi Group Competition Winners.
The 2014 Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Group Competitions will be held on Friday, Nov. 21, at 5:00 p.m., at San Antonio’s Lila Cockrell Theatre. Deadline for group registration is October 24. Click here to register.
Is there such a thing as a ‘mariachi vocalist’?
For several years now, the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza has been using the terms mariachi vocalist or mariachi singer in reference to its vocal competitions. On occasion, however, an individual comments that these terms are incorrect or inappropriate. I asked Cynthia Muñoz, producer of the event, why she chose this terminology. Here is her reply:
“What is the English term for ranchera singer? There is none, which is why we use mariachi singer or mariachi vocalist, simply because these are terms the majority of people are able to understand. Many people who don’t speak fluent Spanish can’t relate to the word ranchera without a detailed explanation.”
That justification sounded good to me, but I decided to consult Heriberto Molina “El Cura,” who runs his own Academia Mexicana de Canto near Los Angeles, California, and ask his opinion on the matter. Heriberto is widely considered the most influential vocalist who has ever belonged to a mariachi group. He had the following comments:
“Students often say to me: ‘I sing mariachi,’ or ‘I sing banda,’ or ‘I sing norteño.’ But what does this mean? That they sing songs that are performed by a mariachi, by a banda, or by a conjunto norteño? There’s a lot of ambiguity in those terms, and their meanings aren’t at all clear. So I say to them, ‘Look, those of us who call ourselves mariachis sing songs from the musical genre known as the canción ranchera. Previously, it was called the canción mexicana.’ Well, the traditional term for someone who sings this type of song is ranchera singer, but I definitely think there are contexts where it’s appropriate to use the terms mariachi vocalist or mariachi singer. I was a vocalist with Mariachi Vargas for 30 years, and I think these terms are correct and acceptable.”
I wanted a second opinion, so I asked the same question to Nati Cano of Los Camperos. Here is what he said:
Ranchera music includes all the folk musics of Mexico, and many of those regional ranchera genres have very little to do with the mariachi tradition. On the other hand, a lot of material that mariachis play today cannot be considered música ranchera. Other genres that have nothing to do with Mexican folk music have been imposed on the mariachi just to make money. For these reasons, I’m not at all opposed to the term mariachi vocalist, nor do I consider it incorrect.
So what do you, our readers, think? Please leave your comments below.