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Popular Music Styles of Mexico

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The music of Mexico is very diverse and includes many distinct regional styles. It has been influenced by the music of numerous world cultures, including European, American, and other Latin American countries. On this page, we will explore some of the most popular styles of Mexican music.

One of the oldest forms of traditional Mexican music is the son, a folk music form that developed in the 17th century. Sones brought together elements of indigenous music, Spanish, and African music, with many regional differences in  instrumention and rhythm. Some of these regional sones include son huasteco from the Huasteca region, son jarocho from the area around Veracruz, son jaliscenses from Jalisco, son chilena from the Costa Chica region, son calentano from Tierra Caliente, and son michoacano from Michoacan.

Probably the best-known form of Mexican music among American audiences is the mariachi. Mariachi originated in the Mexican state of Jalisco during the 19th century, but has become a symbol of the music of Mexico to audiences around the world. The mariachi ensemble of today generally consists of several violins, trumpets, an acoustic guitar, a vihuela (a high-pitched, round-backed 5-string guitar), a guitarron (a large acoustic bass guitar), and sometimes a Mexican folk harp. It is noted for the grito mexicano, a shout that is done at interludes within a song. Mariachi musicians dress in traje de charro (the clothing of the cowboys of Jalisco), consisting of a short jacket, tight-fitting ornamented trousers which open slightly at the ankle to fit over short riding boots, wide bow ties, and sombreros.

The ranchera originated in the mid-19th century. Its name comes from the word rancho, because these were literally songs that developed on the ranchos, or ranches, of rural Mexico. Rancheras are very romantic in nature, and deal with themes of love, patriotism, or nature. They were traditionally sung by a single voice, accompanied by guitar. Rancheras have a standardized form with an instrumental introduction, verse and refrain, and an instrumental conclusion.

The corrido developed around the time of the Mexican American war, and is similar to the ranchera musically. Corridos are long ballads in epic story form, and narrate the histories of important events or celebrate heroic deeds. Much of the story of the Mexican American war was told in popular corridos of the time.

Another popular form of Mexican music is norteno, which literally means "northern" in Spanish, and refers to the northern regions of Mexico in which it developed. It is a blend of traditional ranchera music with the musical styles and instruments brought to Mexico and the U.S. Southwest by German and Czech immigrants in the late 1800s. Like mariachi, norteno includes the grito mexicano, but it is distinguished by its distinctive European polka beat and by the use of the accordion and the bajo sexto (a Mexican instrument with 12 strings in 6 double courses).

Cumbia is a musical style that originated in Colombia, but became very popular in Mexico through the recordings of Colombian singer Luis Carlos Meyer Canstandet, who came to live in Mexico in the 1940s. His popularity, and that of other subsequent Cumbia recording artists, led to the development of Mexican Cumbia.

Tejano, sometimes called Tex-Mex, is similar to norteno, but it developed among the Mexican populations of central and southern Texas. It generally has a more modern sound, having been heavily influenced by cumbia and by American rock and blues. Tejano became widely-known to American audiences in the 1980s through the popularity the late Selena Quintanilla-Perez, who has often been called "the queen of Tejano".

Banda is played by big-band brass emsembles, with lots of emphasis on percussion. It originated in the state of Sinaloa in the mid 1800s, and was modeled after the military bands that were prominent during the rule of Emperor Maximillian I. It grew in popularity during the Mexican Revolution, when local authorities and states began to form their own bands to play in the town plazas. Banda bands are typically large, with 10 or more members, and include brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. One of the distinctive instruments of banda is the tambora, a type of bass drum with a head of animal hide and a cymbal fixed on top. Like norteno, banda was also influenced in its sound by the popularity of the German polka.

In the Southwestern U.S., where our store is located, the music of Mexico is a vibrant part of the local culture. We carry a variety of Mexican music LPs, along with records featuring musicians from here in the Southwest. Browse our selection of Mexican, Southwestern, and other Latin music.
 
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