Mariachi Real De San Diego
Mariachi Classics (Mardi Gras Records, 2009)
Last March I taught a Latin music appreciation class in Bellingham, Washington. The months prior when I was researching traditional Mexican and Cuban music, I uncovered a lot of gems, but mainly from Veracruz. The closest I came to [wiki:Mariachi] music was by watching a video presentation of Linda Ronstadt’s tribute to her father’s Mexican music heritage. And I perused a couple of Arc Music recording from my collection.
I’m also surrounded by Mexican-American culture where I reside. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t hear a [wiki:ranchera] or a Tex-Mex song surfacing from a passing car. But even with this culture surrounding me, I have yet to see a [wiki:Mariachi] band perform in this area. Maybe the rain keeps them away.
However, [wiki:Mariachi] bands show up in all types of venues in the American Southwest and southern California. Musicians that have kept the tradition alive perform in bars, street corners, private homes and restaurants. The musicians often describe themselves as “jukeboxes” as is the case with Mariachi Real De San Diego, because these musicians possess a repertoire of 100s of songs. And the musicians have a song for any occasion from a birthday to a wedding celebration and other rites of passage. They also know how to tug at the heartstrings with a bit of nostalgia.
In the band’s press release, musicians from Mariachi Real De San Diego cite, “…I don’t care how poor people might be. They will always have [wiki:Mariachi]s at birthday and wedding parties, and even at funerals…We’ll play in church, do a [wiki:Mariachi] Mass, play at the gravesite, the songs the person used to like. ..We’re celebrating life.”
“Mariachi Classics—All the Mariachi Songs of Old Mexico” features 16 tracks, of songs I have never heard, but according to the musicians, find their roots in the old world. Beautiful ballads mix with some rousing celebratory songs. And the songs are performed on the traditional Mexican lute, vihuela, guitarron (a bass acoustic guitar), violins, horns, and of course, tenor vocals.
While I prefer my 2 Arc Music recordings with classic songs familiar to me, I am certain that hardcore [wiki:Mariachi] fans will be quite pleased with this disc. And I am thankful that these musicians are keeping revolutionary songs alive and kicking in the 21st Century.
I dedicate this review to my Grandmother Celina Balquin who recently passed away at the age of 107. She was quite fond of [wiki:Mariachi] music and was gifted with a [wiki:Mariachi] band on her 100th birthday in El Paso, Texas. Both my Grandfather and Grandmother Balquin were musicians.
Buy the CD:
- In North America: Mariachi Classics
Patricia Herlevi is a former music journalist turned music researcher. She is especially interested in raising music consciousness. She is looking for an agent and publisher for her book Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit). She founded and hosts the blog
The Whole Music Experience and has contributed to World Music Central since 2003.