Singing Mexico's past
By Beatriz Mancebo Original Print Publication: March, 2007
Mexicans have a long, richly textured, and sometimes turbulent, history. Along the way, some of that history was set to music. Mexican musica folklorica; stories of love lost and found, adventure, conflict, sacrifice and times gone by.
Los Folkloristas was founded in 1966 by people passionate about preserving and recording the traditional music of Mexico and Latin America. From the beginning, they have worked hard to be faithful to the original sound of the old songs; they play instruments authentic to the time period and place of the music’s origin. In each concert you will hear as many as 70 instruments, collected from all over the region, some from very remote places.
Folkloric music has been handed down through the generations by oral tradition; there are few written scores. Los Folkloristas repertoire includes everything from a pre-Hispanic Mayan lullaby to Son Jarocho. During a single concert, you will be treated to as many as 20 different types of music.
El son is a danceable music played mainly in Jalisco, Veracruz and Nayarit. Locals take to the floor and dance in the zapateado way, striking hard with every step. The rhythm of the song is created in part by the sound of heels hitting wood.
La valona verses employ typically clever Mexican humor to give songs double meanings. For instance, the last word or sentence of a stanza might be repeated in the following stanza, but used in a different way, seeding the song throughout with funny double-entendres.
At one point the Catholic Church tried to suppress the Son Jarocho. Apparently the church took exception to the frequent use of sexual double-entendres and tendency to make fun of religion, death, and even the church itself.
And for the pre-Hispanic music, from the first moment I heard the song Raíz Viva, I fell in love with the unique sounds of the 20 or so drum and wind instruments.
Not all the instruments in this version are traditional; in the original piece musicians played the triple flute of Texexexpan, Veracruz, the triple flute of the Golf, and the Toltecas flutes. Even so, this haunting instrumental piece will transport you to an ancient past rich with myths, gods, and natural beauty.
If you want to experience all this yourself, you’ll have a chance this month. Los Folkloristas will be playing in Mexico City. Keep an eye out for dates.
For more information and tickets, see their website losfolkloristas.com.mx.