Steeven Sandoval, ‘La Voz del Mariachi,’ gained fame as the former lead singer for both Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán. Now a popular soloist in his own right, he is widely considered the premier voice of contemporary mariachi music. Steeven will headline his own show for the third time in San Antonio this Cinco de Mayo weekend on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre.
María Zentella recently reached Steeven Sandoval by telephone at one of his recording sessions in Guadalajara. Steeven spoke to MariachiMusic.com about his upcoming concert, the origin of many of his songs and the educational mariachi movement in the United States.
María Zentella: Steeven, for your upcoming May 4th presentation at the Charline McCombs Empire Theater, what kind of reception do you expect from the San Antonio audience that already knows you and loves you so much?
Steeven Sandoval: I sincerely hope that, once again, I leave them with a positive impression. I’m bringing along some new songs, which I always like to do so my concerts won’t be too repetitive. But I also like to include themes already familiar to my audience, ones that they already identify with me like “A Los Cuatro Vientos,” “Por Amor” and “Te Hubieras Ido Antes.” I also have some traditional sones in my repertoire that San Antonians are really going to like.
MZ: Your Mariachi Channel video of “A Los Cuatro Vientos” has been viewed by more than three million viewers on YouTube. How does it feel to have such a large following among mariachi fans?
SS: It makes me feel very good. I recorded that song with both Mariachi Vargas and Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán. After leaving Nuevo Teca, I decided to launch my career as a soloist. Without counting two videos, a third version of “A Los Cuatro Vientos” is on my recent solo album, 100 Litros de Tequila, and my fans really like it. Everywhere I perform, they ask for it. All the requinto has to do is play the introduction, and people immediately recognize the song and start screaming. It makes me feel good.
MZ: When you sing and perform, you project a deep and genuine emotion that not all singers possess. What can you tell us about your deep, emotive rendering of every song? How did you acquire this artistic ability?
SS: I think it’s something natural that one already has in one’s blood from childhood, don’t you think? Well, in each song that I sing, I try to take people on a journey with me and make them feel the emotion of what I’m singing about. That’s what I try to do, and it just comes naturally to me.
MZ: For your May 4th presentation, you already mentioned that you’ll be singing some of San Antonio’s favorite songs, as well as some new selections and some traditional sones. Can you tell us now one or two of the songs you’re going to sing on that day?
MZ: Those festive songs are really going to be enjoyed, especially since it’ll be Cinco de Mayo weekend, a popular historic celebration time in San Antonio.
SS: Yes, and I’m going to do my best to liven up that fiesta with music and song! Of course, I’ll also sing songs that pay tribute to mothers on Mother’s Day weekend, since Mother’s Day is celebrated the weekend following the concert.
MZ: When you were younger, you met the renowned songwriter Manuel Esperón (1911-2011). Among his many compositions, is there a song you particularly like?
SS: Don Manuel Esperón wrote many great themes that were interpreted by Jorge Negrete, like “Yo Soy Mexicano,” which goes (Steeven sings a capella): “Yo soy mexicano, orgullo lo tengo…” I was really excited to have the opportunity to meet him at the Teatro Degollado, where he was attending some of the presentations I gave with Mariachi Vargas.
MZ: Among all the past and present authors of the grand canción ranchera mexicana, is there one in particular that has inspired you in your career?
SS: Yes, there are several Mexican songwriters who have inspired me to choose the genre I sing, which is the canción ranchera. Martín Urieta is one of them; I really like his compositions. Also, Agustín Lara and Armando Manzanero.
MZ: Among your Mexican and Latin American public in the United States, all the themes you sing are very much loved, especially “Por Amor,” which you interpret beautifully.
SS: Thank you. Well, if we’re going to talk about non-Mexican composers, I have to mention maestro Rafael Solano and his theme “Por Amor”, which is frequently requested by my audiences. He’s from the Dominican Republic, but most people aren’t aware of his nationality. What people seem to like is my own personal way of interpreting that song.
MZ: You’ve mentioned before that in the United States, mariachi music is taught in universities as a professional career. What message would you like to give to youth and to the people of San Antonio?
SS: To all young musicians who are studying music, specifically mariachi music, I’d like to give this advice: Our music and culture are quite beautiful. Mariachi music is particularly beautiful, and we shouldn’t let it disappear. It makes me sad to know that other countries often value this music more than our own nation does. I sincerely applaud all the parents who teach their children our culture, our mariachi music. My respect goes to out to them, and they deserve our continued support.
MZ: Going deeper into what you’ve said—that in other countries the mariachi has achieved a higher stature than in Mexico and that Mexican-Americans have perhaps a greater appreciation of it—do you envision this enthusiasm eventually finding its way back to the music’s country of origin?
SS: I think the only way this could be achieved would be if Mexico were to do the same thing you’re doing here; if every Mexican school were to have a mariachi music program. This could help overcome negative stereotypes and ensure that mariachi music isn’t forgotten. Our music has tremendous value, and it’s recognized on an international level.
MZ: Thank you for granting mariachimusic.com this telephone interview, Steeven, especially in light of the fact that you interrupted a recording session just to talk to us. Before we conclude, do you have any final words for your fans here?
SS: Well, I’m very much looking forward to my May 4thconcert in San Antonio. It’s always a treat to enjoy the presence of those who have supported me over the years and who continue to do so. I am very grateful to all of you.
Steeven Sandoval, ‘La Voz del Mariachi,’ will be accompanied by San Antonio-based Mariachi Azteca de América, featuring a special guest appearance by Edcouch-Elsa native Nathania Flores, 2018 Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Grand Champion vocal winner. Members of the highly-acclaimed Ballet Folklórico from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) will also perform.
Steeven Sandoval en Concierto is a production of Muñoz Public Relations (MPR), producers of the 25th Annual Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza and the annual Mariachi Extravaganza Summer Camp. MPR’s mission is to promote, preserve and present mariachi music in its most traditional form through featuring outstanding artists from the U.S. and Mexico. This concert would not be possible without support from H.E.B. Many thanks for their continued support of Latino arts and entertainment.
Tickets to see Steeven Sandoval en Concierto are on sale now at Ticketmaster outlets, including the Majestic Theatre Box Office, online at Ticketmaster.com or charge by phone at 800.745.3000. All tickets are subject to applicable service charges and fees.
Upcoming performances by Steeven in other cities
Pike Performing Arts Center
House of Blues
Las Vegas, NV
Cullen Performance Hall
Everett Civic Auditorium