Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rock en Español

I recall thinking in the early nineties that Mexican popular music was derivative, a cheaper imitation of the vapid scene in the U.S. that was still under the sway then of MTV. Like film, rock and alternative music in Mexico today has come into its own, and the best of it draws from its own rich traditions to make the music new, rough, but also Mexican.

One band that I enjoy -- "saw" them at a free show at the Zocalo once -- is Cafe Tacuba.

But the most visible and enduring group within the rock category is Maná.

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Homage to Those Who've Gone Before

It is of course wrong to single only these three late, great Mexican singers among so many others who are not mentioned. Let's just say that musicians working today stand on the shoulders of a multitude, who are still known by Mexicans of all ages.
On the playlist are also some songs that are at the heart of Mexican culture.

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Baladas Romanticas

Alejandro Fernandez, son of the most beloved living singer Vicente Fernandez, attracts his own following for some reason I cannot fathom, although females have told me he is easy on the eyes. How should I know? Fernandez also no doubt attracts followers, female and otherwise, with his romantic songs carried by sweeping and lush string sections. Be very careful with this stuff; I was at home listening to some once, and I fell deeply in love with my pet turtle because of it.

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The name refers of course to this music's origin in the north of Mexico. The well-known group Los Tigres del Norte, for example, have roots in the Northwestern state of Sinaloa. Norteña is a label that overlaps with labels such as Ranchera and Conjunto. In general, the sound is characterized by the use of accordian and the bajo sexto.

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Durangense and Banda

image courtesy

Durangense hails from the state of Durango, but is a popular phenomenon in Chicago as well due to the large number of Mexican immigrants there from Durango. Banda features a raucus and busy percussion section, a bassline courtesy of tuba, and brass interludes between lyrics. Durangense features more use of saxophone.

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