Music Of Jalisco
By Samantha Ray
The most popular theory to explain the origin of the word mariachi dates back to 1870. Emperor Maximilian was very fond of these folk orchestras which originated in Jalisco. During his reign they were often employed to play at fiestas in the homes of the Francophone Court. Some of these occasions were weddings so the Mexicans began calling them mariachis, a corruption of the French mariage.
However they may have acquired the name, they are known everywhere by it. They have not only increased in popularity over the years, they have become professionals, for they are among the few folk music groups that live by their music. Their voices are often good and the players are first rate. In general they begin a song with what they call a sinfonía, a nice little tune, often having no relation to the melody. Between verses, the tune of the song is repeated. The music of Mexico has persisted and gone through practically the same evolution as the plastic arts of the country. Immediately after the Conquest, the Spanish employed native musicians because they had few of their own. To their teachings, the Mexicans began to incorporate compositions of their own and meztizo music was born.
In pre-Spanish times, as now, only men and boys played musical instruments in the mariachi bands, but the boys and girls learn to sing and dance together and continue doing so throughout their lives. After the Conquest, only boys received musical instruction for a short time in the first Catholic schools, the most famous being the one established by Fray Pedro de Gante at Texcoco in 1527. Many became good musicians even without knowing the language of their instructors. They were also skillful in making copies of the European instruments. The tradition continues to this day.
Several states of the Republic make excellent quality guitar and Mexico has sent dozens of students to Cremona, Italy (land of the Stradivarius), to learn the manufacture of guitars, violins and other string instruments.
In many schools children are taught to sing folk music, so that modern rock does not take completely over traditional music. In spite of foreign influences, Mexicans are still singing a lot of what is called boleros rancheros and mariachi accompanied songs.
One way of knowing a people is to listen to their songs. The Mexican folk singers may not always have great voices, but they sing because they have something to say. As one singer expressed it: “I sing that I may be heard, Not because my voice is good; I sing to make known my laments In my own land and in others.”
In their music the Mexicans express the entire gamut of their emotions—and for this reason their songs are rich and varied.