The word “mariachi” doesn’t come from an exact reference. Some think it came from the Europeans, but that can’t be true because there is evidence that goes even farther back. Another theory says that the word Mariachi comes from the wood that makes up some instruments. There are many more terms and ideas on how the word Mariachi got started.
Mariachi is used today as a way t describe a type of music and musicians that is very popular in the Mexican culture. Mariachi is traced all the way back to the 16th century. Theatre was a big deal in this time.
The instruments used in the theatre were the same as the instruments used in the Mariachi bands. (Mexico, The Melting of Two Cultures, 1991). Most of the common ones would be the harp, trumpet, guitar, and violin. Mariachi was founded in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Here is where groups would travel to play songs in haciendas or large Mexican homes.
The Mexican revolution really changed how the the Mariachi bands preformed. They no longer could play in homes anymore so they spent their time traveling from town to town singing and spreading stories of the war. They would normally set up at squares or big celebrations and play for anyone to come listen. (Collins, 2004). When the revolution finally need in 1910 Mexicans took to Mariachi as pride.
The bands sung songs from tales of the war and told stories of great heros. This really made Mexicans stand by Mariachi as their own. In the 1940s Mariachi started to spread outside of Mexico. Many immigrants were coming over into the U.S. and with them they would bring their music and customs. Mariachi slowly started to become part of the American culture.
By the 1950s Mariachi could be hear in cafes and festivals all over the U.S.. Today the southwest part of United States is where it is the most popular. It is heard throughout most of the world.
Today, mariachi music can be found all over Mexico and the U.S., though its popularity in this country is more limited to the Southwest of the U.S.. The musicians of today’s mariachi ensembles are highly skilled, well-trained men and women of all ages. They can read and write music and many of them can play multiple instruments. During performances they wear fitted black pants, white shirts with waist length black jackets, and black sombreros.
Mariachi music can still be heard in cafes and public squares, but it can also be heard at universities and high schools where it has become a part of the curriculum (Ruiz, 2001). There are also many Mariachi contests and conferences. The Tucson International Music Conference is a four day celebration of mariachi music and includes contests, art exhibits, workshops, and all day concerts (Mackey, 1996). Mariachi music is also a key element in many celebrations in Mexico. Weddings, baptisms, quinceañeras, and birthday parties are all normal places to see mariachi bands playing their music. They can be hired and will play a blend of the traditional mariachi music as well as polkas and waltzes. They were forced to incorporate these musical styles into their plan when they began playing for fees at these events because those celebrating wanted a wider range of music for their listening and dancing pleasure. The mariachi and their music hold a great significance to both the listeners and the musicians playing the music.
As mentioned above, mariachi music is a source of great national pride for Mexican people. It gained immense popularity during the Mexican Revolution because the music told of heroes and common people doing extraordinary things (Sharp, 2004). This popularity can be compared to patriotic music in the U.S.
today. It is also a symbol of national identity for many Mexican people who have immigrated to the United States and other countries. This music reminds them of their native country. They can use this music to identify with others who are in their culture or to introduce their culture to people who are not familiar with it.
Besides being a symbol of national pride, mariachi music is also engrained in the lives of the Mexican people. Mexicans have been exposed to it since a very early age at baptisms and celebrations and have heard it major events throughout their lives. One major event which features mariachi music is a young woman’s quinceañera, or fifteenth birthday celebration. This is a very important date for the young girl and celebrates the girl becoming a woman. On the night before her birthday, she is serenaded by a mariachi band. A mariachi band also plays at the quinceañera party. Hearing this music at these occasions makes it a part of their lives. As they grow older and have families of their own, they will play mariachi music, or hire mariachi bands, for celebrations and parties.
To the musicians, the mariachi is not just music but a way of life. Like many other professional musicians, they dedicated their lives to studying and performing the music. Since their music is a symbol of national pride, they need to take pride in performing it.
They must stay true to mariachi traditions while still being original and fresh. The importance of the music to the people requires those who perform it to be serious and professional while still having a good time and helping the audience to have fun. The most important mariachi band is known as the Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan. They were formed in 1897 by Gaspar Vargas and have survived over five generations. The group won many awards and contests during their span and has inspired countless people to pick up instruments. They were also featured on Linda Ronstadt’s album, “Canciones de mi Padre,” which was released in 1988. The current group is composed of two harps, one vihuela, one guitar, one guitarrón, two trumpets and six violins (Historia, 2003). Some examples of their work would be The Mariachi Vargas and Guadalajara La Negra Las Mananitas.
Mariachi music is important to millions of people in Mexico, the U.S. and other countries. The music is a key part of major events in their lives and is a constant reminder of their culture.
The musicians in the mariachi band also hold the music to be very significant, and they play it with the respect that it deserves. Over the past several hundred years, mariachi music has evolved and grown into a major genre of Mexican music and has become a very important part of the Mexican culture. The sound, the setting, and the significance have all changed over the years, but it is still distinctively Mexican, and the roots of traditional mariachi music are still true today. The popularity of the genre has increased during the last century.
Today, it can be heard in traditional places like cafes and public squares, but there are also concerts and conventions that attract thousands of fans and span several days. There is no telling how mariachi music will evolve over the next four hundred years, but one thing is for sure. Mariachi music is here to stay, and no matter how time changes the instruments or musicians, the roots of the original mariachi will still be evident.
Mariachi music is a vibrant, living musical form and those who are in charge of it, the performers, take great pride in it. No matter what happens in the future, they will not let their roots be washed away.