The compilation Mexico: The Best Boleros from Costa Chica
showcases the thriving bolero scene in the Costa Chica region of southern
Mexico, in the Pacific Coast region. Boleros are passionate love songs that are
popular throughout the Spanish-speaking world.
This anthology includes the finest artists from the region, including veteran performers as well as rising talent. It was originally curated by Mary Farquharson, one of the co-founders of Corasón Records, Mexico’s leading world music label. Corasón licensed it to Arc Records for international distribution.
Mexico: The Best Boleros from Costa Chica demonstrates Mexico’s musical hybridization, featuring Spanish guitar and poetic influences along with percussion that came from the Afro-Cuban tradition.
Mary Farquharson wrote the liner notes and the CD booklet
includes the Spanish-language lyrics.
Pedro Torres set: Pedro Torres on vocals and guitar and Alberto Urbán on requinto.
Fidela Peláez set: Fidela Peláez on vocals; Celerino Jiménez
on requinto; guitar; Jorge Jiménez on guitar; Javier Sosa on bongo; and César
Adrián Reyes on electric bass.
Chogo Prudente set: Chogo Prudente on vocals and guitar; Héctor Diaz on lead guitar; Rai Jhalel Prudente on quijada de burro (ox jaw) and arcusa; and Anibal Cruz López on bongo.
Los Tres Amuzgos set: Elfego Torres on second voice and guitar; Miguel Castañeda on requinto and third voice; and Margarito Antonio on first voice and guitar.
Las Hermanas García (daughters of the great requinto player Mariano García): Celia García on first voice; Laura García on second voice and guitar; Mariano García on requinto and musical direction; and César Adrián Reyna on electric bass.
Just in time National Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, two outstanding mariachi albums are now available: “De Ayer para Siempre” from Mariachi Los Camperos and “Esencia” from Mariachi Herencia de México.
Mariachi Los Camperos, founded over 50 years ago, is a renowned Los Angeles-based mariachi band led by Jesús “Chuy” Guzmán. “De Ayer para Siempre” (Smithsonian Folkways, 2019) is the group’s 10th album.
“De Ayer para Siempre” is exquisitely orchestrated and features a meticulous selection of Mexican regional styles, including rancheras, son jarocho, huapango, pasodoble and ballads, reflecting the mestizaje culture of Mexico, a mix of Spanish and indigenous musical influences. There are also nods to other Hispanic nations in the Americas, such as a joropo, a genre from Colombia and Venezuela.
The lineup on the album includes Jesus “Chuy” Guzmán on violin, mellophone and vocals; Sergio Alonso on harp; Raúl Cuellar on violin and vocals; Alfredo Gómez on violin and vocals; Julio Hernández on violin and vocals; Mario Hernández on vihuela; Juan Jiménez on guitarrón; Ernesto Lázaro on vocals; Roberto López on violin; Fernando Ortiz on trumpet; Jonathan Palomar on guitar; Richard Ramos on trumpet and vocals; and Juan Rodríguez on violin and vocals.
As with all Smithsonian Folkways albums, the physical version includes a detailed 40-page booklet with photos and liner notes in English and Spanish.
Mariachi Herencia de México is a newer mariachi ensemble, based in Chicago, featuring young female and male Mexican American performers, 13-18 years old. This rising mariachi act celebrates Mexico’s Golden Age of Film (Epoca de oro) on their third recording, “Esencia” (Mariachi Heritage Foundation, 2019). The album features arrangements by famed Mexican composer Rigoberto Alfaro. “Esencia” was recorded in Chicago, mixed in Los Angeles, and mastered in Madrid.
“These new arrangements are not only more difficult but, I want to say, more prestigious,” says Marco Villela, 16, who sings and plays trumpet on the album. “With these arrangements, we’re trying to capture the essence of the traditional song but with a newer sound, giving it that special kick, with that modern feel.”
Although “Esencia” includes many classic rancheras and boleros, the album also includes contemporary songs such as “Los Mandados,” a song dedicated to the undocumented. It narrates the adventures of a man who brags about repetitively crossing the border illegally, no matter how many times La Migra (or Border Patrol) sends him back.
Mariachi Herencia de México includes Bryana Martínez on violin and vocals; Carlos Rojas on guitarrón; Itzel Bustos on violin and vocals; Arturo Garza on violin and vocals; Melanie Juárez on guitar; Isaias López on Violin and vocals; Karla De La Cerda on violin and vocals; Marco A. Villela on trumpet; Alejandra Aldaco on violin and vocals; Ignacio Paredes Jr. on harp; Zullydiana Gómez on violin and vocals; Noe Uribe Jr. on guitar; Dafne Ocampo on violin; Eric Nieto on vihuela; Adilenne Gutiérrez on violin and vocals; and Juan Diego Rojas on guitar.
The Villalobos Brothers hail from Veracruz in the Gulf of Mexico area. Their finely-crafted music includes an exquisite mix of traditional son jarocho, contemporary Latin jazz, catchy rock, flamenco and classical music.
The three brothers are violin virtuosos, with a beautiful technique that incorporates various influences, leaning on jazz and classical music. On Somos they treat the listener to fascinating violin interplay and poetic justice.
There is a wonderful mix of acoustic-leaning pieces and powerful tracks with drum set, electric bass and electric guitar.
The lyrics on Somos convey messages of love, peace and social justice, focusing on corruption in their home state, inequality, environmental justice, the Ayotzinapa student murders and poverty. “We believe in music as a positive, necessary and inexhaustible healing force, and we live to share our creations. We are not only troubadours of love and brotherhood, but also activists, speaking against injustice, corruption, greed and impunity.”
The lineup on Somos includes Luis Villalobos on vocals and violin; Alberto Villalobos on vocals and violin; Ernesto Villalobos on vocals and violin; Humberto Flores on electric and acoustic guitars, jarana; Rosa Avila on drums; Leo Sherman on electric and double bass; Arturo Stable on percussion on tracks; Javier Cabrera Jasso on percussion; Alberto Jiménez on electric guitar; Manuel Vásquez on cajón; and special guest Arturo O’Farrill on piano.
Somos is a charming and delightful cross-genre album rooted in tradition and social equity, forged by a group of talented young Mexican musicians.
Born in Mexico City in 1946, Antonio Zepeda is the first contemporary musician and composer who, from a non-western point of view, gives relevance to the pre-Columbian musical universe of Mexico.
Inspired in the sonority of native pre-Hispanic musical instruments such as drums, flutes, rattles, water drums, turtle shells, conch shells, ocarinas, clay pots and log drums, he re-creates with them the mystical ambience smothered by the dust of history.
Zepeda has inspired hundreds of musicians to follow his path, creating the revival of a musical genre that had remained forgotten for centuries. He has come to represent the voice of the past, carried through to the present by the sounds whose echoes reverberate into our generation.
Zepeda gave his first concert in 1967, and since then he has been able to live with ethnic groups for long periods of time, studying their philosophy, rhythms and customs and continuously researching about the archaeological and anthropological past of the American pre-Columbian civilizations.
He has composed music for multiple documentary and fiction films and recorded special programs for the BBC of England, CBS of the United States, CBC of Canada, WDR of Germany, Radio France, Radio Denmark, Radio and TV of Sweden and NHK of Japan. Through the Mexican Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs he has officially represented his country in North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Europe and has participated in great international festivals.
He is also an outstanding lecturer, and has been presented in schools, universities, conservatories, and museums in Mexico and the world, discoursing on ethnic instruments of Mexico, as well as on the role of music in Mesoamerican pre-Columbian cultures.
Templo Mayor – Música Con Instrumentos Prehispánicos (Olinkan, 1982)
El Rostro de la Muerte Entre Los Nahuas (Universidad Nacional Autonoma De Mexico, 1984) A La Izquierda Del Colibrí, with Jorge Reyes (Philips, 1986)
La Region Del Misterio [The Place Of Mystery] (Olinkan, 1986)
Corazòn Del Sol (Olinkan, 1987)
Retorno A Aztlan (Olinkan, 1989)
In Necuepaliztli In Aztlan (Retorno A Aztlan) (Olinkan, 1989) Paisajes, with Eugenio Toussaint (Producciones Fonograficas, S.A. De C.V., 1993)
Brujos Del Aguatierra (Global Entertainment, 1997)
La Música De Los Espíritus (Knife Music, 2000)
Los sonidos del pasado (2001)
Born in Mexico City in 1961, Claudia Martínez studied music from the age of 9, in the renowned school of Cesar Tort. She later enrolled in the National Conservatory, where she studied classical guitar and singing. She was a pupil of the composers Mario Arturo Ramos and Amparo Rubin, studied classical guitar with Sergio Cacheux, popular Latin American guitar with Esther Echevema, and perfected her vocal technique under the guidance of Guadalupe Molina.
After years of diversity of musical experiences, as a singer for the ancient music consort Convivium Musicum, as a vocalist in Margie Bermejo’s musical show, and in many other projects, ranging from Renaissance music to progressive rock, Claudia moved on to create her own style.
She discovered the music of the Zapotec Indians while working in a research team directed by ethnomusicologist Violeta Torres Medina, which led her into a ten-year personal research on indigenous and traditional sources in addition to the Indian languages, resulting in her first recording project: Xquenda.
After a great success with this record and show, and a second release of Xquenda, under the label Global Entertainment, she decided to have a thorough change in her musical direction. Her work announced an important change of direction in the contemporary interpretation of traditional music.
The Xquenda show includes lullabies to sing for hope, healing and prayer songs, sung by medicine women to cure the soul. Music and dances with drums to ask the gods for rain for the thirsty fields. Songs of love to become a flower and a door opening into the sky. Star games to accompany our children. Xquenda is a Zapotecan word that means “our tutelar spirit, our other self”, and Mexico’s indigenous music is Claudia’s other self.
The Conehua show consists in a collection of Afro-Mexican songs, Nahuatl lullabies, and Tzotzil poem-songs from Chiapas, showing the spirit and the cosmic understanding of the Mexican Indian mothers, in a contemporary fusion rich in modern rhythmic patterns and harmony. Conehua means, in the Nahuatl language, “motherly self”.
Claudia Martínez later changed her artistic name to Tonana. The album Tonana, released in 2000 focuses on universal feminine creativity, inspired by poetry in the Tzotzil language with music by Tonana. During the performance, the spectators join her on a fantastic musical journey that includes lullabies in Nahuatl, Afromestizo songs, centered on the life and death cycle. This magical show is enhanced by interesting sonorous possibilities of contemporary global musical trends. With this project, she was invited to perform at CINARS, Montreal, Canada (2000).
The creative process for Lazos (Links), her third CD, started during the summer of 2002 in Montreal, Canada. It includes authors and their different cultures. African, a Brazilian, an artist from Iran, and a native Indian from Mexico are part of the working team producing this work
Jaramar Soto was born in Mexico City. She studied music from the age of 10, and soon she discovered early music, in which she found the ideal medium for expressing herself. Jaramar’s first solo recording, Entre la Pena y el Gozo (Between Pain and Pleasure, 1993), is the result of her encounter with the music created in Spain when Moorish, Jewish and Christian cultures lived in the same territory, thus producing works of a great musical wealth.
In 1995 she began a new project: Fingir que Duermo (Pretending to Sleep), which included songs from the Sephardic Jews of Spain and Spanish composers such as king Alfonso X “The Learned (or the Wise), Juan del Enzina and Luys Milan, along with songs freshly composed on the poetry of Mexican writers from the 17th century, like Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Bernardo de Balbuena.
The arrangements and overall musical treatment, created by musical director Alfredo Sánchez, is a search for a contemporary sound without forgetting the ancient roots. This is also achieved through a combination of electronic tools and ethnic instruments.
The third of Jaramar’s solo works, Si Yo Nunca Muriera (If I Never Died, 1996) is inspired by the poetry of Nezahualcoyoti, an Aztec poet king, with music by Alfredo Sánchez.
Lenguas (Languages, 1998) her fourth project, includes new versions of songs in the ancient languages of Spain, France, Germany and Mexico. The Mexican pieces included in this work, two popular songs from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. are the starting point for Jaramar’s future project, which will consist in a series of Latin American songs. On stage, Jaramar’s voice is backed by a group of Mexican musicians playing keyboards, string instruments and assorted percussion. For some of her recording projects, Jaramar has received grants from the National Fund for Culture and Arts.
Jaramar’s show can be described as alternative music where different musical forms and periods of time mix. It is music with a great expressive force, where the form of interpretation is as important as the songs themselves. Jaramar takes advantage not only of the diverse colors and nuances of her voice but also of body movement and, occasionally, of visual and dance elements that extend the possibilities of expression.
The combination of instruments contribute to this goal as well: there is a mixture of electronic keyboards, ethnic percussion and string instruments. In Jaramar’s musical journey one can find the mystical and the sacred as well as the sensual and the profane: the regional and the ancient as well as the global and the contemporary.
In The Journey (La Travesia), Jaramar gives a musical testimony of her meeting with all those moments which have originated what we are now. This is done with a curious and playful state of mind. From their own personal positions, where ethnic and electronic instruments meet, Jaramar and her musicians review medieval pieces by Richard the Lionhearted, Alfonso X “the Learned”, Walter Vonder Vogelweide, or the anonymous monks who created what we now know as Carmina Burana.
They stop in the Spanish Palace Songbook and the Moorish-Sephardic melodies: they taste the pre-Hispanic concept of life and death through the poetry of the Mexican king Nezahualcoyotl:they glance at the Colonial poets – Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Bernardo de Balbuena – and finally arrive at the musical hybrids – “sones” from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, “huapangos”, even Venezuelan songs – that appeared in America in more recent centuries.
The musical journey is, therefore, composed of the following parts: Medieval French, German, Latin and Spanish songs. Sephardic music. Colonial poets. Nezahualcoyoti, the poet king. Mestizo songs.
Entre La Pena y El Gozo (Grabaciones Lejos Del Paraiso, 1993) Fingir Que Duermo (Grabaciones Lejos Del Paraiso, 1995)
Si Yo Nunca Muriera (Grabaciones Lejos Del Paraiso, 1997) Lenguas (Opción Sónica, 1998) A Flor De Tierra (Opción Sónica, 1999)
Nadie Creera El Incendio (Opción Sónica, 2002) Journey – 1992–2002 (Opción Sónica, 2002)
Duerme por la noche oscura (2004)
Que mis labios te nombren (2006) Diluvio (Discos Intolerancia, 2008)
Fiestas privadas (2011) La Llorona (2014)
El Hilo Invisible (Fonarte Latino, 2015)
Daughter of a Mixtec Indian woman and a Scottish-American father, Lila Downs unites cultures and boundaries with her extraordinary voice. Downs was born September 9, 1968 in Tlaxiaco, in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Downs grew up in the Sierra Madre mountains of southern Mexico and later studied music and anthropology at the University of Minnesota and at the University of the Arts in Oaxaca. But it was only through music that Downs reconciled her heritage. “It took a long time to decide that I wanted to sing,” she says. “Something needed to motivate me.”
That motivation was the songs and stories of the Oaxacan people. Her Mixtec mother spurred Downs to sing these songs with sentimiento – a deep, almost empathic emotion which has left audiences of all cultures and countries spellbound.
Downs recalls the first time she was struck with this particular brand of sentimiento. “While I was in Oaxaca, I was asked to translate from English to Mixtec death certificates of young boys who had left for the United States searching for work. Their relatives wanted to know how they had died. It was so powerful, being this translator of their deaths. I had to sing about it, to honor them if I could.”
Since then, composing has become a powerful artistic and cultural outlet for Downs. She researches the ancient codices of the Mixtex and Zapotec people and sets them to music. Down bridges the past and present with stirring songs drawn from the folklore and history of a culture steeped in passion, heartache, tradition, and pride.
On stage. Downs – with her thick braids and soulful, ink-black eyes – transforms herself, becoming the character of the song. “You have to find the spirit to the songs, otherwise it doesn’t matter how pretty you sing. I can’t quite explain what it is, but I think it has something to do with getting to know yourself and feeling right about what you’re doing.”
Downs CD Tree of Life, is inspired by the mythological account in the 16th century Codex Vindobonesis telling of the first Mixtec people being born from trees. Singing in both Mixtec and Spanish, Downs artfully showcases the traditional cumbia and ranchera styles alongside eclectic mixes inspired by border life.
Her 2011 album ‘Pecados y Milagros’ earned both a Grammy and a Latin Grammy award. Lila performed on the soundtrack to the Oscar winning film Frida, the 2002 biopic depicting the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
In 2014, Lila released Raíz (Root), with Spain’s Niña Pastori and Argentina’s Soledad.
Lila’s 2015 ‘Balas Y Chocolate’ also earned a Latin Grammy and went platinum in Mexico.
Los Pregoneros del Puerto is a dynamic Mexican group that performs traditional jarocho music from the Mexican Gulf Coast. Led by Jose Gutiérrez on jarana, the group features Gonzalo Mata, and Manuel Vásquez. Guitarist Valente Reyes also performs regularly with the group. All of these musicians are native to the state of Veracruz, Mexico.
As young men, all three played together in Veracruz in the early 1960s and, after many years of separation, they were reunited in 1982. Gutiérrez, who was brought up in a family of ranchers and musicians, serves as the group’s lead singer, or pregonero (literally, “caller”).
The Nortec Collective is comprised of various artists. The first lineup included Fussible (Pepe Mogt), Bostich (Ramón Amezcua), Panoptica (Roberto Mendoza), Clorofila (Jorge Verdún) and Hiperboreal (PG Beas). These musicians created and perform a style of music called Nortec – a fusion of Norteño (“from the North”) and Techno, documenting the collision between the style and culture of electronica and traditional Mexican music.
Some former members of the collective created an offshoot called Niño Astronauta. The group released a debut CD, Niño Astronauta.
The 2005 album, Tijuana Sessions, Vol. 3 (Nacional Records, 2005), features the hypnotic first single Tijuana Makes Me Happy, as well as the infectious Tengo La Voz.
Xavier Quijas Yxayotl was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, of Huichole heritage (his indigenous name, “Yxayotl,” is Nahuatl for “tears”). Originally an artist, in the 1970’s he left city life and moved to the mountains of Jalisco and Nayarit, Mexico, to live with his Huichole relatives and the Tepehaunes people. There, Xavier studied and played pre-Columbian instruments, participating in ceremonies and rituals. He developed a passion for making museum quality indigenous instruments – Mayan and Aztec drums and flutes, turtle shell drums, rain sticks, log drums, rattles, gourds.
Xavier has spent most of his life constructing and playing these instruments. He says “All that I do comes from a spirit within me, music is a live representation of nature. In looking at my cultural and musical roots, I realize music crosses all barriers! It was at this time that I decided to form a group and name it América Indígena. The group is composed of people who share my musical sentiments”. During their travels of concerts and ceremonies they interpret the authentic music of the Mayans, Aztecs, Tarahumaras, Yaquis, Tepehuans and Huicholes.
Xavier also sings in Tarahumara and his native Huichol and Nahuatl Languages. They perform magical rituals that captivate the audience providing an unforgettable experience to their audiences as their music is said to cure the soul and spirit. “The concerts are not just for entertainment. I give them a special message with serious significance” he says. “Through them I express the origin and true meaning that exists in that “hidden” world unknown to the generations of our times – this is an ancient music for new generation. I hope that with my music I am able to bring you at least a little of the force of our ancestors, and I hope to captivate your soul and your spirit!”