School of Mexican Music
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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I met Juan Carlos, 18, on my first day of mariachi classes at the School of Mexican Music in Mexico City. We were pretty much friendly strangers for the first two months, since we sat on opposite sides of the classroom—me in the neatly-arranged row of guitarists in the front, him with the pack of macho guitarrón players who roamed freely in the back.
Juan Carlos’ natural knack for music could have made him the envy of the entire class. But he was way too likable, always greeting people with a warm saludo as they walked in the door, or helping them decipher their sheet music, to bring on anything but fuzzy feelings from the rest of us. What most impressed me was that despite his confidence, Juan Carlos was as new to the guitarrón as I was to Mexico.
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This portrait of Edgar Alejandro “Alex” Paz is part of a series of interviews I did with students at the School of Mexican Music in Mexico City. Alex and his classmates come from diverse backgrounds and bring a wide range of goals to the study of Mexican music. Some are looking for local fame, or at least a career of gigging at restaurants and weddings. Others want to become more versatile musicians. Some are diehard Mexican music fans since childhood, and others, like Alex, had to warm up to it.
In this interview, Alex tells us about his dilemma: finding his ideal career, and an appreciation for his own country, in a city that bombards him with a world of choices. He worries about making a living, but cares more about holding down a job where he can “find creativity.” Here he talks about his journey to appreciating Mexican music.