Last updateFri, 05 Sep 2014 1pm

Corridos and canciones are the core of Mexico’s musica folclorica, the vibrant center of the country’s cultural soul

This week’s 22th Encuentro Internacional de Mariachi y Charreria (22nd Annual International Mariachi and Charreria Festival) is a perfect opportunity to enjoy two musical forms that constitute the core of Mexico’s folkloric music: corridos and canciones (which includes ranchera).

Tales of love, bravery

The spangled mariachi musicians who stalk fiestas, and restaurants throughout Mexico, — along with smaller groups ­ anywhere from two to four players — and the single, guitar-toting musician working cantina tables, all at one time or another can be heard performing these tales of great love and despair, bravery and foolishness and violent death. Some of these musicians may have only a hazy idea of the various forms they play and sing, belting out boleros, sones, valonas, huapangos with lusty fervor, mixing one form with another without realizing it. Yet others, quite often the oldest, frequently the seemingly least well educated, will have a very clear perception of what kind of songs they are performing.

Quite possibly knowledge of precise forms doesn’t actually matter, especially with the oldest songs. They are simply there, lofted out into the spicy night air filled with bursts of fire and songs to God, with marchas and gringo fox-trots, played by the village band perched in the kiosko of the town square, swathed in the moaning and the roar of cantina and cenaduria juke boxes, pierced by the trumpet blast of competing mariachi bands playing in the transient bars set up in the middle of main street. In this aural melee it can be difficult to sort out pure musica folclorica. Yet, if one is patient and remains relatively clear-headed through the ritual rinsings of aguardiente, tequila, pulque and tuba, late in the evening, usually down some nearby street, where the swirl and cacophony thin out a bit, a solitary figure with a guitar can be found, plying his ancient trade, singing songs whose roots are older, even, than the coming of the conquistadores.

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