The Grand Tour

For my final post, Iʼll leave you with this audio flipbook that sums up my year. In previous posts, I tried to explore the diversity of Mexican music by zooming in on individual sounds and people. I wanted to compare a variety of styles (Mariachi, Son Jarocho, Danzón, Villancicos, La Chilena, Son Huasteco, and Tropical were just a few that I got hooked on), while also considering how this music has been affected by emerging issues in Mexico, like emigration, urbanization, and the cultural gap between generations.

This audio flipbook takes a wider view. I hope it lives up to its name—Itʼs a “grand tour” of the School of Mexican Music, classroom by classroom, genre by genre. For the musician in me, traveling from one “room” of Mexican music to another over the course of this year was an awe-inspiring lesson in new sounds. But more importantly, it gave me a taste of the complexity of Mexican history. And every day, Iʼm happy to report, that history is still being sung and played out by young people who want to live in a 21st century Mexico that doesnʼt forget where it came from.
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Wednesday, July 8th, 2009 Slideshow, Thoughts 6 Comments

Find a Fandango Near You!

If you’ve enjoyed the sounds of Son Jarocho on this blog, I have good news: you don’t have to travel as far as Mexico to hear it played (and danced) live.

As I mentioned in my post on Son Jarocho camp, many of my fellow campers were Mexican-American artists, activists, and musicians living in the U.S. They clued me in to the booming sonero scene back home, where cultural centers, cafes, and nonprofits are increasingly hosting fandangos not only because they’re crazy fun, but because they double as a forum for intercultural dialogue.

And if you go to a fandango, you might just find out about workshops for jarana or zapateado being offered nearby. Fandangos are open to the public, so don’t miss out!

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Monday, June 29th, 2009 Thoughts No Comments

Son Jarocho, Overexposed!

Recently in Xalapa, I found myself in the middle of a heated debate. I was sitting in the colonial courtyard of an artists’ cooperative, surrounded by a dozen local celebrities. They were a mixture of young and old son jarocho musicians who had gathered to discuss “the future” of their music, now that it’s all the rage in Mexican cities. The central issue could be summed up in one question: As metropolitan musicians playing country music, does that make them a ciudad de soneros, or soneros de la ciudad? That translates to say, are they “a city of [authentic] son jarocho musicians, or [somewhat less authentic] son jarocho musicians of the city?”

The debate was a chipper one—as students and teachers of each other, the group was a close-knit community who could take pride in the fact that their music’s biggest problem is overexposure. Still, their concerns were real. Is son jarocho losing its local flavors, now that young people are imitating hit records instead of their neighbors? Is it becoming commercial, now that hit records simply exist, and some fandangos charge a cover? Are fandangos becoming less instructive, now that the next generation of soneros is made up of Guitar Hero-playing, iPhone-addicted egomaniacs, whose shrinking attention spans and inability to hear anything that isn’t blasted through subwoofers mean that they’ve forgotten how to just listen?
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Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 Thoughts, Uncategorized 4 Comments

Back to the Ranch


When the band of young Mexican musicians Los Cojolites first started giving lessons a decade ago, their goal was simply to get their neighbors to turn off their TVs and play local music together again. Los Cojolites played Son Jarocho—the traditional music of their hometown in Southern Veracruz—at a time when it was going through a bizarre renaissance in other parts of the country. It had exploded in Mexico’s urban centers and college campuses, and even secured a spot on the “world music” stage abroad, yet it was about to fizzle in its own birthplace.
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Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009 Audio, Slideshow 9 Comments

The Pulse on the Gulf


Compared to other forms of popular Mexican dance, Danzón is less about flair and improvisation, and more about control. In this intro to the 1991 Mexican film Danzón, a dance that may at first seem like little more than shuffling reveals itself as an elegant sequence of carefully controlled steps.

While Iʼm thankful to have dodged the Swine Flu with my health intact, Iʼm bummed to report that my project took a hit.

A few weeks ago I was looking forward to traveling to the historic port city of Veracruz to get an up-close look at one of Mexicoʼs most cosmopolitan styles of popular music: the Cuban-born Danzón. Every year, competitive Danzón teams from all over the country convene in a seaside ballroom in Veracruz—Mexicoʼs Danzón headquarters—for a weekend of cha-cha-chá-ing in front of a panel of judges.
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Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 Thoughts, Video 195 Comments

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