Music and History Unite in Mariachi Music

Why Mariachi? People are often curious and ask why I play mariachi music. I have played the trumpet ¾ of my life. In that time, I have been exposed to a myriad of music genres. I have a fondness for all music that emphasizes the “king of brass” instruments. Mariachi is not a very old genre in comparison to classical and romantic music but has its roots in Mexican history.

Music often tells a story and mariachi is no different. It has its beginnings in the town of Jalisco, Mexico. Many people forget that Mexico has only been an independent nation since 1824 and similar to the United States, Mexico has had different nations implant their culture and people into the country. The country of Mexico is a Spanish speaking nation, but the French and the Germans had their time in Mexico lending their musical traditions to the “Mariachi culture” we experience today.

Much of the European traditions have colored mariachi music, from its style to the instruments. Early mariachi music used drums, rattles, and flutes made of clay. The music and traditions remained fundamentally the same, but the European styles and instrumentation has altered and augmented the culture of Mexico. When Cortes came along, with him came European instruments, music forms, and religion. These new ideas did not take long to influence the culture.

When we listen to Mariachi music, we hear and feel the pulse of a waltz or the oom-pah of a polka. Many songs have their origins in these European styles. The one thing that keeps mariachi Mexican is its stories. Many of the songs tell stories of legends and Mexican life. Some are sad stories and the music weeps for loss. In other songs, the music leaps for joy. Mariachi is an art form that helps all, Spanish speaking or not, to see into the heart of Mexico.

My love of history and music meet completely in the style of mariachi music. There is more to discuss about how the European styles and instrumentation merged with the traditional aboriginal people of Mexico. The hope is that this article will whet your interest to explore mariachi music. Till next time “Viva Mexico!”