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Info req re Mariachi bands

phil jl 05 Oct 99 - 08:11 PM
Joe Offer 05 Oct 99 - 08:21 PM
gayle Atkins-martin 06 Oct 99 - 03:54 PM
Mark Clark 06 Oct 99 - 07:26 PM
WyoWoman 06 Oct 99 - 11:47 PM
phil jl 07 Oct 99 - 03:59 AM
Mark Clark 07 Oct 99 - 11:33 AM
Bill Galbraith 07 Oct 99 - 03:36 PM
Jerry Friedman 08 Oct 99 - 02:47 PM
T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 08 Oct 99 - 03:10 PM
Jerry Friedman 11 Oct 99 - 12:22 PM
Rincon Roy 12 Oct 99 - 08:08 AM
Rincon Roy 12 Oct 99 - 08:14 AM
M. Ted (inactive) 12 Oct 99 - 02:21 PM
Cervesa Man 13 Oct 99 - 03:01 PM
WyoWoman 23 Oct 99 - 01:53 PM
Rincon Roy 27 Oct 99 - 09:41 AM
WyoWoman 27 Oct 99 - 10:52 AM
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Subject: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: phil jl
Date: 05 Oct 99 - 08:11 PM

At our local regular session last night I was admiring a friends new bass (150 years old, black, battered and a beautiful sound) when conversation turned to acoustic bass guitars used in Mexican bands (I think they are called Mariachi bands).

None of us seemed to know much about these bands, other than what we have seen in B grade movies or read about in Mitchener's book about Mexico.

Can any one at Mudcat help with some information such as;

What sought of music do they play ? Where can I find some of this music (in written form or midi) ? Can they be considered traditional or a modern invention ? Is the name and spelling correct ? What instruments are used in the band ? And, most importantly, what are the features of the bass ?

If any one can help I be grateful.

By the way, we hold our sessions on the first Tuesday of each month at Churinga Café, Mt Dandenong - about 35 klm east of Melbourne, Australia. The setting is magnificent – temperate rain forest, beautiful gardens (it's spring here), enormous trees and mountain air. There is no amplification and very few rules – it's simple but it works. Songs are popular at the moment but six months ago it was tunes. So if you are passing by, come and join in and maybe give us a song or poem or a tune.

Thanks, Phil


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Oct 99 - 08:21 PM

Funny you should mention that, Phil. I posted this lead in another thread just today: ElMariachi.com.

But while we're talking about mariachi bands, I'm wondering why it is that mariachi trumpets sound so bright. Is it a different instrument from other trumpets, or is it just played differently? We're trying to learn some Spanish-language music for church, and we can't get the trumpet to sound quite right.
-Joe offer-


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: gayle Atkins-martin
Date: 06 Oct 99 - 03:54 PM

there usually are 1 or 2 trumpets, 3or 4 guitarists. i have seen accordions and fiddles in some bands. Most I have seen are from New Mexico, usa. so I can imagine alot of variations. I could probably get you some cassettes or cd's of some traditional and non traditional groups. They usually play polka type music but will do ballads if they have a good singer in the group. I don't know about sheet music but I could get you the address of an outfit out of Albuquerque, N.M. that distributes alot of hispanic music. (they have groups that do Ranchero, and Tejano styles as well as contemporary and International artists.) you can write me @ 443 Valley View Ln. #19 in Rock Springs, Wyoming zip code 82901 If I can help you all out at all. If you like Mariachi you all might go for Cajun music too. Check out the Mavericks song "You always Bring Me Down" with guest accordion artist Flaco Jimenez. A very lively upbeat song.


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: Mark Clark
Date: 06 Oct 99 - 07:26 PM

I have been on a couple of occasions to Mexico City and had the pleasure of standing in Gerabaldi Plaza and listing to the many mariachi bands play most of the night for tips. They assemble, much like bands at a festival, on every corner and open spot. They compete with each other for the attentions of passers by and will wander into the nearby food court to entice a donation from captive diners.

They come wearing the most beautiful costumes and sombreros; some of their finery would put our Grand Ole Opry stars to shame. Some of the music they play is sold as sheet music in the nearby stands and the covers bear the pictures of nationally popular groups.

The music is sung and played on violins and trumpets. All other instruments (guitars, chico guitars, guitarones, dublo sixtos) seem to be used more or less as drums. I can't remember whether any of them used an accordion but if they did it would have doubled the melody rather than added rhythm as in Cajun music.

Outside of those experiences, I know alarmingly little about the music and its background. I think the music is considered traditional but it continually produces new songs in the genre, much like bluegrass music here. The singers, though, usually sound highly trained, at least to my ear. As I recall, they pitch the (male) voices rather high but without the strain usually preferred in the southeastern U.S. Sort of a Sons of the Pioneers sound but higher and with more energy.

They are really awesome to see and hear.

- Mark


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: WyoWoman
Date: 06 Oct 99 - 11:47 PM

Well, Mark, having lived in New Mexico for 16 years, I can tell you that you were lucky to hear mostly well-trained men singing with los mariachis. Many of them are not so great. Some are wonderful.

I don't think the trumpets are any different physically than the instruments used in other bands, but the trumpet players really do "commit to the song," as someone said in another thread. They aren't shy about their playing. (this can be annoying when you're out having a nice dinner, and los mariachis come to your table and play FORTE while you're snarfing the guacamole. But some know how to play it low and sweet and it's simply heartrending.

I'm going to Nuevo Mexico for Halloween weekend and could pick up a couple of tapes or CDs for you if you'd like, Phil-j1. I know of a couple of places down there that would have them, but I can't think of the name to pass along to you. But if you'd trust my taste ...

WyoWoman


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: phil jl
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 03:59 AM

Thanks to you all for your help, I'm beginning to see that there is a lot more to Mariachi bands and their music than I had originally envisioned. The link that Joe pointed me to looks particularly interesting but it will take some time to explore.

But could someone tell me what are chico guitars, guitarones, dublo sixtos and Ranchero and Tejano styles.

WyoWoman and Gayle, your offers to get hold of some recordings for me is much appreciated but at this stage I think I'll decline and see what more the web will yield (I may also have difficulty sending money to you, I have never mastered the intricacies of currency exchange and I don't have a credit card).

Gayle, I've listened to a little bit of Cajun music and quite enjoyed it. In Melbourne the terms Cajun and Zydaco appear to be interchangeable and I've often wondered if there is any fundamental difference. I have a few recordings of zydaco music that I find quite and exciting - and I get the feeling I may enjoy Mariachi music in the same way.

Thanks, Phil


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: Mark Clark
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 11:33 AM

WyoWoman: The occasions I describe were some time back, 1962 and 1969 to be exact. Note that the elapsed time may have colored my memory somewhat. You're right about the volume of the trumpets. As I remember, the whole band plays with great gusto.

Phil j1: The instruments I (mis?)named, chico guitar, guitarone, dublo sixto, are a small guitar about the size of a ukulele or a tipple, a very large (cello sized) bass guitar with five strings and a twelve string guitar, respectively. I don't recall hearing any melody or single note work on any of them.

- Mark


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: Bill Galbraith
Date: 07 Oct 99 - 03:36 PM

It's my understanding that mariachi music originated in Guadalajara, although I'm no expert. But we have lots and lots of it here in Houston: at Mexican restaurants (of which there are literally hundreds) and on TV, and at pretty much any local festival. And although all the bands do some instrumentals, I've never heard one which didn't rely mostly on vocals, whether good or bad. An instrument not mentioned thus far in this discussion and which is almost universally used here and in Mexico is a nylon string harp. Some of the traditional songs, like "La Barca de Oro" or "Malaguena Salerosa" are just beautiful and quality of their performance is a test of the band's singing skill. Oh, and if you ask a band to play a particular number they expect payment. The going rate here is about $5 per song.


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: Jerry Friedman
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 02:47 PM

"Trumpets and violins I hear in the distance." Sorry, wrong genre.

The U. of Chicago Spanish-English dictionary says mariachis are "typical of Guadalajara", so I think you're right, Bill.

Mariachi music often strikes me as rather silly, based as much on sound effects as on music, but I can still enjoy it when it's well done.

The big guitar is called a guitarrón. (Let's see how that comes out!) I've heard of a bajo sexto ("low sixth"), which I think is about the same thing. I suspect the name of the twelve-string guitar would be doble sexto or sexto doble ("double sixth"). And like Mark, I've only seen/heard them play chords. However, I wouldn't call that being used as drums. I'm told, incidentally, that a lot of mariachis are starting to use brass instead of guitars for the bass parts nowadays, but the north-of-the-border ones I've heard here in New Mexico don't have tubas. I haven't seen a mariachi band with an accordion, but I've only seen a few.

Yes, lots of strong, almost operatic tenor voices. The last one I heard (Mariachi Porvenir, from Santa Fe) had a powerful contralto lead singer--an interesting difference.

Phil, I'm not too sure about the different genres, though I can sometimes tell them if I hear them. "Tejano" is just Spanish for "Texan". I think it would sound a lot like U.S. country music with an accordion, but that's also my definition of "Tex-Mex" and "norte&tilden;o". (Tex-Mex may have more of that plaintive sentimental stuff, e.g., "Before the Next Teardrop Falls", by Freddie Fender.)

"Ranchero" is music from rural Mexico--very simple harmonies (unlike the sophistication of mariachi music) and folk or folk-like melodies with those two long notes at the end of the phrase. I think much of it's from the 1900-1950 period. Can't have a fiesta without it. Cormac McCarthy says that when you hear your first ranchera (a ranchero song), you know all there is to know about Mexico. When you hear your hundredth, you realize you know nothing.


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 08 Oct 99 - 03:10 PM

Northern New Mexico is said to have a distinctive musical tradition of its own. If this is so, does this tradition have a name or label it goes by ?

T.


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: Jerry Friedman
Date: 11 Oct 99 - 12:22 PM

It does, and it's definitely less sophisticated than mariachi music (as you might expect in this poor and formerly isolated mountain area). I don't know any name except "traditional music from northern New Mexico" or variations of that. But I can ask my Spanish teacher--un músico de Chamisal, a quien le gusta mucho la música folklórica de aquí. (Sorry, had to practice there for a second. A musician from the mountain town of Chamisal, who likes folk music from here a lot.)


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: Rincon Roy
Date: 12 Oct 99 - 08:08 AM

Always thought that Zydeco was a marraige of Cajun & early rock-n-roll...

An interesting take on Tejano, Cajun & traditional New Mexican Music can be heard from Albequerque's "Bayou Seco" string band.

Tucson Arizona (USA) has an international Mariachi Festival every year: check out the website: http://www.azstarnet.com/~timc/

Recall evening in Guadalajara when rode down to the Mariachi square with friend who leaned out car window and dickered with the bands till he found one that would meet his price per tune. Then the band members piled into their old cars and followed us back to a birthday party and played the number of songs they'd agreed to play. The older women in the "client's" family kept careful count too making sure the family got what were paying for.

A relative of mine who has had contact with trumpet players schooled in the Mariachi style, said they specifically work on developing that piercing tone with its characteristic vibrato. Probably why you seldom see cornets in mariachi bands (too mellow). Old style mariachis (19th century?) did not have brass; just strings. Strings as I have heard them seem to serve a strong rythmical purpose, stirring the soul with complex patterns beneath the melodies.

Haven't seen Tubas used for mariachi bass lines, only guitarrons. However, there is another form of Mexican traditional folk band music that is not mariachi, that features primarily brass and clarinets that can be heard in Sinoloa (among other places) that almost always has a Tuba. Rythms are different than mariachi. & it's not like any brass band you've ever heard...


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: Rincon Roy
Date: 12 Oct 99 - 08:14 AM

make that "Sinaloa" (apologies to citizens of that fair state)


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: M. Ted (inactive)
Date: 12 Oct 99 - 02:21 PM

I can't find any Mariachi CD's, and my vinyl is still all packed up, so from memory, here are a few things to listen for and shoot for when you are trying to play some of this stuff--It doesn't necessarily describe everything that they do (and. God help me, I may have mis-remembered some of this stuff, and it may not describe anything!), and will either help you a little bit or confuse you completely--

Mariachi music includes a lot of tunes in that are in a quick 6/8 time--it is not a waltz feel, the 2 component (beats 1 and 4) is more like a really solid, quick, march--the underlying 3 component--1-2-3-4-5-6, each beat is sharp and even, like a machine gun--

The bass, rather than alternating on the 1 and 4 beats, often plays fills of eighth notes, either descending, scalewise, or ascending, chordwise-

The chord progressions are often (but not always)a sort of montuno, which is a simple, repeating chord pattern (such as "La Bamba") which carries the rhythm, wiyh the horns and vocals floating over which the melody, or soloes, or whatever madness they come up with--

The various sorts of guitars keep the rhythm--which is always some sort of dance beat, and either strumming chords or by playing a repeating melodic phrase, which the classically minded would call an ostinato, and the others might call a lick or a riff or a "bit of business"

The other instruments, either as solo or in sections, bounce around these bits of business--and the multilayered effect is rather pleasing--

The horns get that peculiarly boozy sound with a peculiar attack--they sort of hit the note and squeeze around til they get the pitch, sort of a little portamento, I guess--anyway, if you are a formally trained trumpet player, you have to relearn your tonguing technique, and overcome your habit of having to be on the pitch, and then learn to blare--


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: Cervesa Man
Date: 13 Oct 99 - 03:01 PM

Aye, and then there are those classic trumpet types who begin strong, but sound progressively more and more boozy after each break until they are barely there at the close.


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: WyoWoman
Date: 23 Oct 99 - 01:53 PM

I had thought the Northern New Mexican trad music was called "Norteno" (you'll have to add the tilde), or just ranchero music. And ranchero always sounded very polka-ish to me...

Musica por los rincons de nuestra vida. (Someone always seems to be sitting in a corner, back against some kind of wall or other, listening to rancheros and drowning sorrow...)

WyoWoman (una former Nueva Mexicana)


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: Rincon Roy
Date: 27 Oct 99 - 09:41 AM

Norteńo (Northern) reminds me how personal the compass points can be: To Yankees: we live in the Southwest; To Mexicans: in El Norte (the north); to local AmerIndians: in their homeland.. or at the center of the Earth.

Which brings thread back to OZ.. Down Under from here, eh?


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Subject: RE: Info req re Mariachi bands
From: WyoWoman
Date: 27 Oct 99 - 10:52 AM

Yup. Geography is so much personal interpretation...


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