It happened again yesterday, like I’ve experienced so many times in Mexico. I heard heartbreakingly beautiful music, asked who was singing, or who had written it, and then spent to the wee small hours of the morning chasing links on YouTube and Google. I am continually dumbfounded by the variety and depth of Mexican music. From comments that unfold below the videos, I know I am not alone in the world. I would venture to say that more than mangos and tomatoes, Mexico’s chief export to the rest of the world is its music.
Ironically, though it’s me who speaks Spanish, it’s been my husband and his Harley motorcycle club connections that have provided us with a wealth of Mexican friends, mostly husbands and wives. Larry has hit it off with one man in particular, and his wife and I have become friends, as well. Mainly we are linked by the fact that Larry and Ernesto are about thirty years older than anyone else in the club. Ernesto’s wife Lucha had a birthday comida yesterday, and I was honored to be included. It was not like the ladies’ luncheons I was used to back in the States.
For one thing there was a lot of tequila and sangria involved. About three hours in, after the food had been cleared away there was dancing — the kind that women do when there are no men around and we’re just ecstatic to be alive. It was, of course, to live music. Live music seems to be a staple at any gathering involving over ten people. This was a school teacher/tenor from León, Victor Centeno, and his keyboardist, a surprise gift from Lucha’s sister. Things got rolling starting with the strains of the traditional birthday song, “Las Mananitas,” and went on from there. He responded to requests, and most of us made quite a few.
The music didn’t stop the conversation, and with over twenty women, I smiled and laughed a lot at things I totally didn’t understand. That can get me into trouble sometimes, but yesterday, for me, it was all about the music.
My sister and brother-in-law recently bought a house near us here in San Miguel. For the both of them, it’s also all about the music. Emily wanted a primer on Mexican music, so I put together the following email for her. I started out with Maria Grever (sometimes spelled Griber), because she’s a woman, and my sister plays the piano. Here’s the link to just the piano playing “Alma Mía,” though I hope you explore further and listen to the words.
Because I’m talking to YOU, who may not know the first thing about Mexican music. I thought I’d go ahead and share all this info I compiled for Emily and Jay to get you interested. It is just a bare introduction to the basics, sort of like introducing Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney to people who don’t know anything about American music. Most of these people go way back. But look at the numbers of records sold by some of these singers! Prepare to be swept away in canciones muy románticas!
So here’s what I wrote to Emily
….Maria Grever’s name came up during an animated conversation about whether Buki or Juan Gabriel is the better poet/composer. So I had to google Buki (Marco Antonio Solis) because I’d never heard of him. The song of his the ladies were raving about was “Donde Estara Mi Primavera?” …..
Here’s more info:
Juan Gabriel is like a god in Mexico. The nation went into mourning last summer when he passed away. The link I’ve given takes you to Wikipedia.
Luis Miguel is another legend. He is not a poet or composer, but boy, does he deliver a song.
Jose Alfredo Jimenez is from the state of Guanajuato and his grave is in Dolores Hidalgo. Legendary composer.
Lola Beltran is definitely a woman worth mentioning. Iconic.
Lucha Villa is another icon who is still living.
Amalia Mendoza I include, just to keep things even between men and women.
But they’re not. There are so many male singers that make my heartstrings flutter, including Alejandro Fernandez (son of Vicente Fernandez), Jose Jose, and I should also include Armando Manzanero, who I discovered when I was a student down here back in the sixties.
Think of it. I’m just putting Mexican musicians here. There are many Argentinian, Colombian, Peruvian, Spanish (I left out Puerto Rico!)….on and on artists that have huge followings. Though I think Mexico definitely leads the pack of Spanish language musicians — but I’m kind of biased these days. So many more. You could get lost in YouTube. It’s fun seeing the comments sections there. Evidently Mexican music has a huge following all over the world.
Important words to know: bolero, ranchero, canciones romanticas.
Also look on YouTube for “La Hija del Mariachi” which evidently was a Colombian telenovela based on Mexican ranchera songs. The clips available are enormously entertaining. Passion!!!
Other women singers that deliver Mexican songs: Linda Ronstadt, Vikki Carr, Eydie Gorme and Los Tres Panchos.”
That’s where I left off, thinking that would give them a good start on their Mexican music education. I know I’ve left a lot of important people out — composers like Augustin Lara and Mario Talavera (Chris Raymond lived on a street named for him.) I invite readers to share with me who I’ve missed. I’m always up for another late night Google session!