Mariachi: A Unifying Identity Essay

Mariachi: A unifying Identity Originating from Western Mexico, the music of the Mariachi has spread far and wide. Stretching further than the music’s two biggest cultural epicenter, Los Angelic and Mexico City, one can find Mariachi as far as Japan; there Is a band native to Los Angelic that fuses Heavy Metal and Mariachi music with the name “Metallic”. Despite these modern adaptations, when one looks at the history of the Mariachi, they soon find that Mariachi music has always been composed of many cultures. The music developed specifically out of Calico, Mexico, with the first documented band being referred to in 1852.

The instruments are of Spanish origin, strings including violin, multiple members of the guitar family including guitar (bass guitar with 5 or six strings), harp (which is commonly doubled or replaced by guitar), vocals, and later the addition of trumpets. Although these instruments are common, the addition of other instruments can vary on geography and region. Even though many of the Instruments hall from Europe, they are considered by many to be part of native culture; and It Is this combined embrace of ancient culture and modern culture that Is at the core of Mariachi. As Mary-Lee Mainland states In her article, Mariachi,

Myths and Mesilla]e: Popular Culture and Mexican National Identity, “It Is the representation of ‘invented traditions’ as ancient and historic that gives them a sense of moral and cultural authority and authenticity that produce continuity with the past. Importantly, the formative nature of invented traditions such as Mariachi creates not only a sense of authenticity and historicity, but also the illusion of origins. ” To attest to this, my good friend, violinist for over twenty one years, and Mariachi often years, Hector Assure said of playing Mariachi “When you play Mariachi, you carry a flag of Identity.

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Adding “It’s about the people. Wherever you go, it is always about the Joys and disparities of life…. That even if you are not In Mexico, or even from Mexico, that It brings one Into Mexican and Chicane culture through this shared tradition. ” As Mainland eloquently says “Mariachi does not exist a parlor or a posteriori of Macdonald (Mexican Identity) , rather they are co-constitutive, constantly drawing on each other in an impulse to move forward and create a sense of past. It is this sense of constant renewal of being that I will research and explore the history and experience that constitutes the modern Mariachi, examining the internationality of cultures that come as a result of the interactions of everyday life that shape and constitute the identity of the individual through examining the personal account and experiences of friend and professional mariachi, Hector Assure. The Mariachis ability to adapt and adopt the various regional styles and genres of Mexico and America give the Mariachi the power to transcend cultural and social barriers through the shared bond of Identity.

Throughout Mexico there are many different styles and genres that descend from various regions of the country, and It Is he Mariachi that brings them all together ‘The music played by Mariachis Includes different genres of songs such as ranchers, zones, scarabs. Happens, corridor and death, drinking and place. ” The rancher is a slow three four with emphases on the melody and lyric in the voice which tell of love and loss; it has perhaps the most folk aesthetics and history, coming out of the life style of the Mexican farm life and thus has simple harmony and accompaniment underneath the melody.

Soon is in three four or six eight in a more lively tempo, usually in turnery form, and can contain ores with voice as well as instrumentals. Scarabs is much like the soon, also in three or compound meter, except it is exclusively instrumental. The Happens, a dance form in compound meter that goes in between feels of two and three. Boleros originate from Spain and are played in a slow and steady four.

Genres usually differ in rhythm and meter, and while some songs come out of specific genre, they are not tied down to performing in that style as Hector explained: Michael Selfridges: “So, I was wondering, can a tune be performed in different genre or do they stay in their original styles? ” Hector Assure: “No, in fact most of them can be performed in different genres. For example, in the group I play with now we play a lot of Cambium things and Salsa things, and you know that’s not traditional Mariachi. But the people request and Mariachis must be able to adapt to what people ask. He continues, “It is not always like that though, like sometimes they will request a song that let’s say is usually a soon, and ask for it in a band style or something similar. ” Michael Selfridges: “What is the most important aspect of changing styles? ” Hector Assure: The most important part is that someone must know the lyrics. After that it is the rhythm that makes the biggest difference, because it is the rhythm that helps to define the genre; the changes are the easy part because they don’t change. ” Continuing, Mimi know it is very important to know your songs.

In Mariachi there are “standards” that you must know, and in different genres. ” Michael Selfridges: “Do different areas have their own set of standards? ” Hector Assure: “Oh yeah yeah!!! Even though I was born in Mexico City, I never actually learned to play Mariachi, so I learned here and went back and played there yaw know? So yeah, there were some songs that were a little different, usually with ornamentation, and some that I never played. ” Michael Selfridges: “That must have been awesome to be able to see both cultures. ” Hector Assure: mimes, I really got to experience the culture shift. Hector tells of his friend, “My Friend Picot is a guitar player, he was born in the south of Mexico but his family kept moving north. So what Picot would do is in every town he would find the best Guitar player in town and take lessons from him; this way he could learn how to play every style the best way possible. Now he is one of the best Guitar players I know. ” The way in which the Mariachi must personally learn the various repertoire and genres from each region creates a dialectic between the various cultures of Mexico and America that unites each individual through the shared experience of music.

The way in which Hector and His friend learned the various songs from each tradition strengthens the tradition and culture as a whole; and with this too come new influences taken from the interaction with culture to which we are all flung. When one hears Mariachi, they hear a sound that transcends orders by cultivating a culture, dialect, and identity. It is clear that Mariachi helps to form a collective identity among various cultures and regions, but how does the modern Mariachi view his own identity, and in what describing how the musicians view each other: Hector Assure: Mimi know, there’s a hierarchy between Mariachis.

Like, if you’re not that good at all they call you “Los proper”, it means “the dogs”, that’s if you’re a really bad musician; you get looked down on. People who don’t practice and higher any one they can get to play; like ‘O you play violin? O you play guitar? You play trumpet? Let’s go! ‘ You know? Just really unrecognized. ” Michael Selfridges: “So kind of like a hack? ” Hector Assure: anemia, that’s a good way to describe it; but like dogs! ” Hector explains further, “It’s funny though because sometimes those can be hit or miss; they can put a random group together that can be really good or really bad.

But you can also be called a dog if you start to slack off on charts, or even if you don’t sing. Especially if you don’t sing, they will be like ‘Ah so you’re playing and not singing? But aren’t we getting paid the same?!?! We got to change the pay! “. Michael Selfridges: “Ah I see, so f you’re only a singer that’s no good; you got to be on another level. ” Hector Assure: mimes but I wouldn’t say you’re on a different playing level or something, it is something that is expected of you; singing is Just another requirement. He continues “So you have your groups like the dogs that do not play or sing that well, there are your average Mariachi who have a group who play a lot of gigs or play a steady gig at a nice restaurant; or for example in parts of East Los Angles and plazas in Mexico City, Mariachi groups commonly make a decent wage playing in and looking for work in the street. Then there are those groups that everyone knows, such as “Mariachi Barras” or “Mariachi Los Camper’s”, the kind of groups you might see on a variety TV show that features all sorts of music like rock or band. Michael Selfridges: “So these are the kind of groups can be Just as popular as other contemporary genres? ” Hector Assure: “Oh yes, and these are the groups everyone wants to be in. People learn all the songs and licks from their favorite players, and even get all the CDC. ” Continuing, “And the level of musicianship and quality is better between these groups, for example dynamics and tone. A group of Los proper will play all loud and not caring so much for what comes out of the instrument, your average group will pay some attention to dynamics and tone, and the best groups play all the dynamics and with great tone and all the instruments. As one can see through Hectors narrative, there is a great tradition of performance practice amongst Mariachis in which one can interpret others and themselves. These standards of practice not only help to encourage musical growth within the community of musicians, but helps preserve the culture of the community as well; the everyday actions of life shaping the identity f culture and the individual.

One has also seen in this narrative that the Mariachi is found playing in various scenarios, from the plaza, to the cantina, and even national television; but the experiences of the Mariachi can stretch past the more acceptable facets of society and into the taboo. As well as the clear dedication to craft and practice as examined, there has been a myth like reputation of the Mariachi as a drinker and reveler; a cliché that has arose for Hector in a few unique scenarios playing in Tijuana. Hector Assure: “l was playing in Tijuana in a group that my friend Picot played in at the mime.

We were looking for work in the plaza all afternoon, having no luck with gigs. Eventually this really cute girl asked if were available to play a party…… She said it and told her we would see her latter that night. We had no idea; we walked into the place and it was a brothel! ” Michael Selfridges: “What did you guys do, did you play the gig? ” Hector Assure: “We did, but man, I have to say….. L tried to stay focused on the playing…. But it was hard with all the…. Um…. Exposure ha! However, in another scenario that Hector experienced was not so lighthearted, Hector Assure: Tijuana is a border town and we were hired by all sorts of people, but this one time we got hired by Marco’s (drug dealers) to play a wedding and reception. They were all wearing very expensive clothes and Jewelry and the place we were playing at was huge! The gig started well but as they got more and more drunk, they kept demanding more music, even though we had another gig to go to. They had guards and they wouldn’t let us go, it was getting very tense.

Then one of the gangsters pulled out a pistol, pointing it at us and telling us to keep playing! ” Michael Selfridges: “That sounds intense, what happened? Hector Assure: “We played for hours, with them occasionally threatening us with the pistol. It was frightening, I was scared for my life. Eventually they let us go, but when they did they didn’t even pay us our full wage! ” These two gigs experienced by Hector are examples of how the Mariachi plays for every aspect and person in society, from a couple sitting in a cantina, to the silver screen, or even a room full of mobsters.

So upon examining what facets the Mariachi performs, one finds that the music of the Mariachi transcends through a large spectrum of society. The mariachi is found laying anywhere; from the neighborhood restaurant and parties, to the plazas of Mexico and streets of L. A. , and all the way to the movies, television, and large concert venues to the vices and taboos of society. It is not important where the mariachi plays or sits in society, but what constitutes the Mariachi; what does Mariachi mean to one? I posed the question to Hector: Michael Selfridges: “Hector, what does Mariachi mean to you? Hector Assure: “To me it echoes in meaning and subjects of the songs. The songs the Mariachi sing are the song of the people, the songs of everyday life, of love, loss, Joy…. ” Pausing, “and you know… Moieties people get bad opinion of the Mariachi, always playing at parties and being around alcohol…… But I think their missing the point; when there is a party there is Joy, a celebration of life…… You know? And to me that’s what Mariachi reminds me of and brings to me; the Joys of everyday life” He continues, “And it doesn’t matter where you are or where you come from.

I learned Mariachi here in the states, and although I was born in Mexico, I had never listened to it or played it. ” Michael Selfridges: “How was it then when you went back and played Mariachi in Mexico? ” Hector Assure: “Although some songs may be efferent, or where we play may be different, it is when I went back I saw what Mariachi meant to me. Although the cultures may be different the message of Joy and everyday life transcends that wherever you are. And that’s what keeps this music alive, when you play every one brings from their community, all the voices come together to celebrate. Upon examining what facets the Mariachi performs, one finds that the music of the Mariachi transcends through a large spectrum of society. The mariachi is found playing anywhere; from the neighborhood restaurant and parties, to the plazas of Mexico and streets of L. A. And all the way to the movies, television, and large concert venues to the vices and taboos of society. But it is not important of finds it in the actions of the everyday. Hectors dialog expresses the sense of community Mariachi brings, and echoes its ability to transcend one society or culture.

The music originating from Calico Mexico has spread far and wide, stretching far further than the music’s two biggest cultural epicenter, Los Angles and Mexico City; one can find Mariachi as far as Japan. Mariachi music has always been composed of many cultures; through examining the internationality of cultures that come as a exult of the interactions of everyday life that shape and constitute the identity of the individual, one finds a constant renewal and reminder of being that brings together and voices the interactions that spans past boarders.

One finds that the music of the Mariachi transcends through a large spectrum of society, and as Hector reminds us, “Although the cultures may be different the message of Joy and everyday life transcends that wherever you are. And that’s what keeps this music alive, when you play every one brings from their community, all the voices come together to celebrate. ”

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