Since the time of the Aztecs, music has been an important part of Mexican culture. Because of its diverse geographical areas, Mexico has several types of music that have distinguishable regional characteristics. Weddings, funerals and birthdays are only a few of the celebrations where different types of music are used to draw out feelings, tell stories and reveal the thoughts of Mexican musical artists and fans.
Ranchera is a form of mariachi that was developed early in the 20th century. Ranchera, a Mexican country music, was prominently featured in several movies, making it popular in Latin America. Themes of ranchera songs vary between love, patriotism and nature, all taken from the everyday lives of farmers. The rhythm of ranchero is either waltz, polka or bolero. The form is standardized and it includes an instrumental introduction, verse and refrain in the middle and instrumental conclusion.
Mexican son was established in the 18th century and it has many similarities with Cuban son. Several different styles of son can be found and the style changes from region to region. Regional variations in the text and the instrumentation started to show the differences between the regions and the influences Cuban, African and Creole Mexicans had to the areas they lives in. By the 1930s, at least 10 son styles were popular, the most popular form of son being mariachi. Mexican son was historically most often played in the countryside. If you have a chance to enjoy a live Mexican son performance, be prepared to participate by stomping your feet in a counter-rhythm. Most Mexican son bands use string instruments and lyrics are often improvised.
A traditional folk music, mariachi is one of the country's most known forms and it is still popular in Mexico, mostly because of its romantic meaning. Mariachi music is a mix of numerous regional music styles, dances–such as waltz and fandango–originating from Europe and rhythms and melodies from Africa. Bolero, ranchera and son music forms are all part of mariachi music. A traditional mariachi band has six to eight violins, two to three trumpets, one vihuela, one guitar and one guitarron. In addition, a good mariachi band knows at least 1,000 songs that represents the opinions and feelings of ordinary Mexican people.
Bolero is a love ballad that can sometimes have a complex melody. It is, however, always a slow song with simple rhythm. Bolero was originally established in Cuba but it became quickly popular and a tradition in Mexico. The son music from the Yucatan Peninsula has many similarities with bolero, provoking a debate that bolero has Mexican influence and roots in Mexican culture.
Corridos were developed during the early 20th century to tell stories about heroes, exploits, battles, crimes and betrayals from the Mexico's revolution in an epic ballad form. The ballads are traditionally performed either by a single guitarist or a variety of small ensembles. Regional variations are common and corridos are still a vital part of the regional music scene in Mexico. Today, the topics of the corridos are more modern, even taboo, and they can vary from drug and human trafficking to illegal immigration.
Eija Rissanen is a freelance journalist living in Hawaii. She has a journalism and environmental studies degree from Hawaii Pacific University. Her articles have been published in Kalamalama, the student newspaper of Hawaii Pacific University, and some other environmental and travel publications and Web sites in Europe and the United States.