Music of Mexico

Pedro Vargas the "Nightingale of the Americas." Even though he trained as a tenor, he dedicated his life to singing popular songs.

The music of Mexico is very diverse and features a wide range of musical genres and performance styles. It has been influenced by a variety of cultures, most notably indigenous peoples of Mexico and European.

Many traditional Mexican songs are well-known worldwide, including María Grever's first international hit "Júrame" ("Promise me"), and her song "Te quiero dijiste" (English version "Magic Is the Moonlight"), written for the 1944 Esther Williams film. "La Noche de los Mayas," Huapango de Moncayo, "Sinfonía India (Second Symphony)," "Sobre las Olas," "La Sandunga," "Cielito Lindo" ("Beautiful Sweetheart"), "Granada," "Bésame Mucho" ("Kiss Me a Lot"), "Perfidia", "Solamente una vez" (English version "You Belong to My Heart"), "Esta Tarde Vi Llover" (English version "Yesterday I Heard the Rain"), "Somos Novios" (English version "It's Impossible"), "¡Ay, Jalisco, no te rajes!", and "Jesusita en Chihuahua,"

Other famous songs include "México Lindo y Querido" ("Beautiful, Beloved Mexico"), "Jarabe Tapatío' (known internationally as the "The Mexican Hat Dance"), "El Rey" ("The King"), "El Triste" ("The sad one"), "Pelea de gallos", "Enamorada" ("Enamoured"), "Échame a mi la culpa" ("Blame me"), "La ley del monte" ("The law of the land"), "La Bikina" ("The Bikina"), "Por Debajo de la Mesa," "La Media Vuelta," "La Bamba," ("The Bamba"), "Lilongo," and "Jarabe Pateño". "La Cucaracha" ("The Cockroach"), although popularized during the Mexican Revolution, is a Mexican corrido.

Traditional folk music

Mexican traditional folk music can be classified in two aspects:

Son Jarocho group Zarahuato performing at the Museo de Arte Popular.
El Pájaro Carpintero

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Group of tamborileros

Its formal structure is based on the alternation of instrumental sections and the singing of short poetic units called coplas. The mode is usually major, with harmonic vocabulary mostly limited to progressions drawing from I, IV, II7, V and V5. Triple meter (6/8, 3/4, or a combination of both) predominates, with many exceptions in duple meter.[1]

Son is performed most often by giant ensembles in which string instruments predominate, with notable region-specific exceptions like marimba ensembles and wind ensembles.

Mexican Son music was developed from the mixture of Spanish music with indigenous music from different regions, hence the music exhibited lots of variation from different places, both in rhythm and instrumentation.[2] Mariachi can be considered one type of Mexican son. Mexican son also includes various miscellaneous styles. The guitar is universally present in nearly all Mexican son subgenres. Other instruments may include trumpets, violins, and accordions.

Huapango típico (son huasteco)

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Main article: Corrido

Corrido music is a popular narrative song of poetry form, a ballad. Various themes are featured in Mexican corridos, and corrido lyrics are often old legends (stories) and ballads about a famed criminal or hero in the rural frontier areas of Mexico. Some corridos may also be love stories there are also corridos about women (La Venganza de Maria, Laurita Garza, La tragedia de Rosita and la adelita) and couples, not just about men. Some even talk about fiction or a made-up story by the composer. Contemporary corridos written within the past few decades feature more modern themes such as drug trafficking (narcocorridos) and immigration.

1. La Cucaracha (chorus only)
Performed by Sean Buss & Elisa

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A common example is "la Cucaracha" which is derived from an Arabic sailors' song from the Moors prior the Reconquista. The corrido has a rhythm similar to that of the European waltz; corridos, like rancheras, have introductory instrumental music and adornos interrupting the stanzas of the lyrics. However, unlike rancheras, the rhythm of a corrido remains fairly consistent, rancheras can be played at a variety of rhythms. Corridos often tell stories, while rancheras are for dancing.

By types of ensembles

Son Huasteca trio at the Alfredo Guati Rojo National Watercolor Museum in Mexico City

Conjunto jarocho

Ensemble specialized in Son Jarocho. It consists of jarana jarocha, requinto jarocho, arpa, pandero.

Conjunto huasteco

Ensemble specialized in Son Huasteco. It consists of guitarra huapanguera, jarana huasteca, violin.

Conjunto de marimba

Ensemble specialized in folk music of traditional marimba. It consists of marimba, double bass and drums.


Main article: Mariachi
Silvestre Vargas (1981–85), violins and musician of the Mariachi Vargas from 1921 to 1975, director from 1931 to 1955.

Mariachi is an ensemble that consists of guitarrón, vihuela, guitar, violins and trumpets.

This folk ensemble performs ranchera, son de mariachi, huapango de mariachi, polka, corrido, and other musical forms. It originated in the southern part of the state of Jalisco during the 19th century.[3] The city of Guadalajara in Jalisco is known as the "Capital of Mariachi".[4] The style is now popular throughout Mexico and the Southwestern United States, and is considered representative of Mexican music and culture.[5]

Mariachis playing at the Tenampa in Mexico City
Mariachis playing at the Tenampa in Mexico City

This style of music is played by a group consisting of five or more musicians who wear charro suits. The golden age of mariachi was in the 1950s, when the ranchera style was common in movies. Mariachi Vargas played for many of these soundtracks, and the long-lived band's long career and popular acclaim has made it one of the best-known mariachi. These movies became very popular in Latin America and mariachi's became very popular in places such as Colombia and Peru until this date.[6]

There are different theories as to the provenance of the word mariachi. Some say it comes from the French word mariage because it was the type of music often played at weddings. However, mariachi originates from a part of Mexico that the French never visited and, even it they had, it began before their arrival in 1864. Another theory is that the word comes from the indigenous name of the Pilla or Cirimo tree, whose wood is used to make guitars. It has also been said that the name comes from a festival in honor of a virgin known as Maria H. that musicians played for and that over time they were given this name.[3]

The traditional mariachi band consists of the violin, the vihuela, guitar, a guitarrón (large bass guitar) and a trumpet. Other instruments may also be seen in a mariachi band, such as the flute, French horn, accordion, or organ are used. These instruments are used for specific arrangements.[7]

Mexican music was popularized in the United States in the late 1970s as part of a revival of mariachi music led by performers like Linda Ronstadt.[8] Other famous mariachi performers include Pedro Infante, Vicente Fernández, Pepe Aguilar, Pedro Fernández, Alejandro Fernández, Antonio Aguilar, and Miguel Aceves Mejía. Some of the best-known examples of Mexican music in the United States is "La Cucaracha" and the Jarabe Tapatío (referred to as the Mexican Hat Dance in the United States).

In Mexico City, the center of mariachi music remains Garibaldi Plaza. The plaza fills with mariachi musicians to solicit gigs from individual songs for passers-by to being hired for events such as weddings and baptisms. They even stand on Eje Central in front of the plaza to flag down passing cars. In 2010, the government renovated the plaza to make it more tourist-friendly, adding new paving, gardens, police, security cameras, painted facades, and a museum dedicated to mariachi and tequila. Although mariachis can be hired in Mexico City over the phone or on the internet, many people still prefer to come to the plaza, hear the musicians and haggle over the price. About 2,500 mariachis hold union cards to work in the plaza, but as many as 4,000 may circulate through on a busy weekend.[9]

In 2011 UNESCO recognized the music as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, joining six others of this list from Mexico.[10]

Conjunto norteño

Main article: Norteño (music)
Los Tigres del norte

Ensemble specialized in norteño music. It consists of diatonic accordion, bajo sexto, double bass and drums. Another important music style is musica norteña, from northern Mexico, which has been the basis for such subgenres as musica de banda. Musica Norteña, like musica Tejana, arose in the 1830s and 40s in the Rio Grande region, in the southern Texas. Influenced by both Bohemian music and immigrant miners, its rhythm was derived from European polkas, which were popular during the 1800s. This type of Mexican music has derived from singers like Los Relámpagos del Norte, Ramon Ayala, Los Tigres del Norte, Los Huracanes del Norte and many more.


Main article: Banda music
Banda el Recodo renowned as "the mother of all bands"

Banda music was made with the imitation of military bands that were imported during the Second Mexican Empire, headed by emperor Maximillian I of Mexico in the 1860s. Banda sounds very similar to polka music. Polish immigrants established themselves in the state of Sinaloa. It was further popularized during the Mexican Revolution when local authorities and states formed their own bands to play in the town squares.

Revolutionary leaders like Pancho Villa, also took wind bands with them wherever they went. Banda has to this day remained popular throughout the central and northern states. It has, however, diversified into different styles due to regions, instruments and modernization. Today people associate banda with Sinaloense. This originated in the 1940s when the media distributed Banda el Recodo repertoire as exclusively from Sinaloa when it was actually regional music from all over Mexico.

Banda Sinaloense at the start of 1900

Although banda music is played by many bands from different parts of Mexico, its original roots are in Sinaloa, made popular by bands such as Banda el Recodo from Sinaloa.

Banda Sinaloense experienced international popularity in the 1990s. The most prominent band was Banda el Recodo which is renowned as "the mother of all bands". Unlike tamborazo Zacatecano, Sinaloense's essential instrument is the tuba. Sometimes an accordion is also included. Some well-known artists are Banda el Recodo, La Arrolladora Banda El Limón de René Camacho, Banda Los Recoditos, Banda Cuisillos, Joan Sebastian, Chalino Sánchez, El Chapo de Sinaloa, Banda Machos and although the Regional Mexican genre is dominated by men Jenni Rivera has a more important place than many men in this genre

Tamborazo Zacatecano

Marcha de Zacatecas

Music sample
March of Zacatecas (Instrumental)

Tamborazo Zacatecano ("drum-beat from Zacatecas") is a banda style traditionally played by two trumpets, two saxophones, ] and the al bass drum. An outstanding example is La Marcha de Zacatecas (The March of Zacatecas) by Genaro Codina, the anthem of the State of Zacatecas and considered the second national anthem of Mexico.


Duranguense (also known as pasito duranguense) is a genre of Mexican music. It is popular among the Mexican-American community in the United States. Duranguense is closely related to the Mexican styles of banda and norteño. The main instruments, which are held over from banda, are the saxophone, trombone, and bass drum. However, what sets the duranguense ensemble apart from banda is the addition of synthesizers to play both melodies and the tuba bassline. The tempo is also noticeably faster than banda or norteño. Among the duranguense elements carried over from other genres is el tamborazo; a heavy percussion line consisting of the bass drum and varied snare drum rolls.


Main article: Grupera
Marco Antonio Solis

Grupera (or onda grupera) is a genre of Mexican popular music. It is influenced by the styles of cumbia, norteño, and ranchera, and reached the height of its popularity in the 1980s, especially in rural areas.

The music has roots in the rock groups of the 1960s but today generally consists of five or fewer musicians using electric guitars, keyboards and drums. Artists in this genre include Yonics, Los Humildes, La Migra, Los Caminantes, Limite, Ana Bárbara, Joan Sebastian, Selena, Marco Antonio Solís, Myriam, and Jenni Rivera. The music increased in popularity in the 1990s and became commercially viable, and is now recognized in some Latin music awards ceremonies such as Lo Nuestro and The Latin Grammy Awards.

The original wave of Mexican rock bands got their start mostly with Spanish covers of popular English rock songs. After this initial stage they moved on to include in their repertoire traditional ranchera songs, in addition to cumbia, and ballads. Thus the 1970s saw the rise of a number of grupera bands that specialized in slow ballads and songs that up to that point had only been sung with mariachi. Among these we can include Los Muecas, Los Freddys, Los Babys, La Migra, etc.


Main article: Mexican pop music
Statue of José José El Príncipe de la Canción (The Prince of Song) in Mexico City

During the 1960s and 1970s most of the pop music produced in Mexico consisted of Spanish-language versions of English-language rock-and-roll hits. Singers and musical groups like Sin Bandera, Angélica María, Johnny Laboriel, Alberto Vázquez, Enrique Guzmán or Los Teen Tops performed cover versions of songs by Elvis Presley, Paul Anka, Nancy Sinatra and others.

Thalía in a Visión Expo event in 2007, presenting her eyewear collections "The Queen of Latin Pop"

The Mexican music market serves as a launching pad to stardom for many non-Mexican artists who are interested extending the market-range of their music. For the last thirty years, Mexican pop music has been led by teen pop bands and their former members. Specially teen pop bands of the last decades have been Timbiriche, OV7 and RBD. Unlike teen pop bands elsewhere, the Mexican audience tends to prefer mixed-gender combos over boys or girls bands.

In 2000, the century saw the crossover of some of Mexican recording artist like Paulina Rubio and Thalía into the English music industry, with bilingual albums, compilation album, that included hit songs in English and Spanish language, and the firsts solo English-language albums by this Mexican pop artist. The best recording crossover artist has been Paulina Rubio with her first English-language album being Border Girl released on June 18, 2002. Thalia has collaborated with American singer of traditional pop standards Tony Bennett in a duet for the song "The Way You Look Tonight". Viva Duets is the studio album by Tony Bennett, released in October 2012. It consists of electronically assembled duets between Bennett and younger singers from various genres like Frank Sinatras "Duets II". In Duets II, Sinatra personally invited Luis Miguel to participate on a duet in the album for the song "Come Fly with Me". Luis Miguel has been dubbed several times by the press and the media as the "Latin Frank Sinatra".[11]

The best-known Mexican pop singers are Lynda Thomas, Thalía, Paulina Rubio, Luis Miguel, Belinda Peregrín, Alejandro Fernández, Natalia Lafourcade, Alejandra Guzmán, Ana Gabriel, Gloria Trevi, Fey and Marco Antonio Solís.


Main article: Mexican rock music

The Mexican rock movement started in the late 1940s and early 1960s, rapidly becoming popular, and peaking in the 1969 and 1990s with real authentic sounds and styles. One of the early Mexican rock bands came out of the predominantly Mexican barrio community of East Los Angeles, "Los Nómadas" (The Nomads). They were the first racially integrated Rock and Roll band of the 1950s, consisting of 3 Mestizo boys, Chico Vasquez, Jose 'J.D.' Moreno, Abel Padilla, and a Caucasian boy Bill Aken (Billy Mayorga Aken).

The adopted son of classical guitarist Francisco Mayorga and Mexican movie actress Lupe Mayorga, Aken was mentored by family friend, jazz guitarist Ray Pohlman and would later become rocker Zane Ashton, arranging music and playing lead guitar for everybody from Elvis to Nina Simone. His association with the other three boys would be a lifelong one and they stayed together as a band for more than thirty years. Mexican Rock combined the traditional instruments and stories of Mexico in its songs. Mexican and Latin American rock en español remain very popular in Mexico, surpassing other cultural interpretations of rock and roll, including British rock.

Café Tacuba performing in Pontevedra, Spain

In the 1960s and '70s, during the PRI government, most rock bands were forced to appear underground, that was the time after Avándaro (a Woodstock-style Mexican festival) in which groups like El Tri, Enigma, The Dugs Dugs, Javier Batiz and many others arose. During that time Mexican Carlos Santana became famous after performing at Woodstock. During the 80s Exanime formed in 1985 in Monterrey. N.L. and 90s many Mexican bands went to the surface and popular rock bands like Santa Sabina, Café Tacuba, Caifanes, Control Machete, Fobia, Los de Abajo, Molotov, Maná, Ely Guerra, Julieta Venegas and Maldita Vecindad achieved a large international following.

Zoé the band has achieved success in Mexico and most Spanish-speaking countries

The latter are "grandfathers" to the Latin ska movement. Mexico City has also a considerable movement of bands playing surf rock inspired in their outfits by local show-sport lucha libre. In the late 1990s, Mexico had a new wave "resurgence" of rock music with bands like Jumbo, Zoé, Porter, etc., as well as instrumentalists Rodrigo y Gabriela and Los Jaigüey the band of Santa Sabina's bass player, Poncho Figueroa, along with brothers Gustavo Jacob & Ricardo Jacob in the late 2000s.

Extreme metal has been popular for a long time in Mexico, with bands such as Dilemma, Exanime formed in 1985 in Monterrey. N.L. The Chasm, Xiuhtecuhtli, Disgorge, Brujeria, Transmetal, Hacavitz, Sargatanas, Mictlayotl, Yaoyotl, Ereshkigal, Xibalba, and Calvarium Funestus. The Mexican metal fanbase is credited with being amongst one of the most lively and intense, and favorites for European metal bands to perform for.

Alejandra Guzmán's 26 years of artistic career, with more than 10 million albums sold, 16 released albums and 30 singles in radio's Top 10 hits, has earned her the title of La Reina del Rock (The Queen of Rock). She is the daughter of two Latin entertainment legends: movie icon Silvia Pinal and rock and roll legend Enrique Guzmán, from whom she inherits her talent and passion for arts, music, dance and constant spiritual growth. -69

Latin alternative

Lila Downs in the "National Sor Juana Festival" 2007.

An ecletic range of influences is at the heart of Latin alternative, a music created by young players who have been raised not only on their parents' music but also on rock, hip-hop and electronica. It represents a sonic shift away from regionalism and points to a new global Latin identity.

The name "Latin alternative" was coined in the late 1990s by American record company executives as a way to sell music that was -literally—all over the map. It was marketed as an alternative to the slick, highly produced Latin pop that dominated commercial Spanish-language radio, such as Ricky Martin or Paulina Rubio.

Artists within the genre, such as Maldita Vecindad y los Hijos del Quinto Patio, Nortec Collective and Café Tacuba, have set out to defy traditional expectations of Latin music.

Mexican ska

Ska entered Mexico in the 1960s, when both small bands like Los Matemáticos and big orchestras like Orquestra de Pablo Beltrán Ruíz recorded both original ska tunes and covers of Jaimacan hits.[12] After early new wave bands of the early eighties like Dangerous Rhythm and Kenny and the Electrics incorporated ska into their post-punk sound, a more punk-influenced brand of Ska started being produced in Mexico City in the late eighties, and the genre enjoyed its highest popularity during the early 2000s, even though it is still very popular today. Mexican Ska groups include Panteón Rococó (Mexico City), La Maldita Vecindad (Mexico City), Mama Pulpa (Mexico City) and Tijuana No! (Tijuana, Baja California; originally named Radio Chantaje).


Some of the best Mexican composers for electronic and electroacoustic media are Javier Torres Maldonado, Murcof and Manuel Rocha Iturbide, the later conducting festivals and workshops of experimental music and art, in Mexico City and Paris. Some exponents are Nortec Collective, Wakal, Kobol (band), Murcof, Hocico & Deorro and Mexican Institute of Sound.

Other music of Latin-American roots

Other popular forms of music found in various parts of Mexico – mostly with origins in other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America include rumba, mambo, bolero, and cumbia. Rumba came from the black Mexican slaves in Veracruz, Mexico City, and Yucatán. The style began in Cuba and later became famous in the black community of Mexico. From the beginning of the 20th century, bolero arrived to Yucatán, and Danzón to Veracruz. Both styles became very popular all over the country, and a Mexican style of both rhythms was developed.

In the 1940s, the Cubans Pérez Prado, Benny Moré emigrated to Mexico, they brought with them the mambo, which became extremely popular especially in Mexico City, later on mambo developed into Cha cha chá which was also very popular.


Armando Manzanero widely considered the premier Mexican romantic composer of the postwar era

The Cuban bolero has traveled to Mexico and the rest of Latin America after its conception, where it became part of their repertoires. Some of the bolero's leading composers have come from nearby countries, most especially the prolific Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernández; another example is Mexico's Agustín Lara. Some Cuban composers of the bolero are listed under Trova. Some successful Mexican bolero composers are María Grever, Gonzalo Curiel Barba, Gabriel Ruiz, and Consuelo Velázquez.

Another composer Armando Manzanero widely considered the premier Mexican romantic composer of the postwar era and one of the most successful composers of Latin America has composed more than four hundred songs, fifty of which have given him international fame. His most famous songs include Voy a apagar la luz (I'm Going to Turn Off the Lights), Contigo Aprendí (With you I Learnt... ), Adoro (Adore), No sé tú (I don't know if you...), Por Debajo de la Mesa (Under the Table) Esta Tarde Vi Llover (English version "Yesterday I Heard the Rain"), Somos Novios (English version "It's Impossible"), Felicidad (Happiness) and Nada Personal (Nothing Personal).

Some renowned trios románticos were Trio Los Panchos, Los Tres Ases, Los Tres Diamantes and Los Dandys. Trio Bolero, a unique ensemble of two guitars and one cello.

The romantic ballad or Latin ballad

Luis Miguel, "El sol de Mexico" (The Sun of Mexico).

The Latin or romantic ballad has its origin in the Latin American bolero in 50 years (Lucho Kitten, Leo Marini), but also in the romantic song in Italian (Nicola Di Bari) and French (Charles Aznavour) in years 60 and 70.

The ethnomusicologist Daniel Party defines the romantic ballad as "a love song of slow tempo, played by a solo singer accompanied by an orchestra usually".

Cristian Castro

The ballad and bolero are often confused and songs can fall in one or the other category without too much presicion. The distinction between them is referring primarily to a more sophisticated and more metaphorical language and subtle bolero, compared with a more direct expression of the ballad.

In Mexico, the first ballad that is registered as such is "Sonata de Amor" (Sonata of Love) of Mario Alvarez in 1961. In 1965 the famous bolero singer-songwriter Armando Manzanero, recorded his first ballad, "Pobres besos míos" (My Poor Kisses).

The heyday of the ballad was reached in the mid-1970s, where artists such as José José, Camilo Sesto, Raphael, Roberto Carlos, Rocío Dúrcal and others released many hits. The main hist of José José were "El triste" (The Sad One), "La nave del olvido" (The Ship of Oblivion), "Te extraño" (I Miss You), "Amar y querer" (Love and Love), or "Gavilán o paloma" (Pigeon or Hawk), "Lo pasado pasado" (The Past is past), "Volcán" (Volcano) or "Lo que no fue no será" (What Never Was Will Never Be). In the course of their existence the genre merged with diverse rhythms to form several variants, such as romantic salsa and cumbia aside others.

From the 1990s on, globalization and media internationalization contributed to the ballad's international spread and homogenization.


Main article: Mexican cumbia

The history of Cumbia in Mexico is almost as old as Cumbia in Colombia. In the 1940s Colombian singers emigrated to Mexico, where they worked with the Mexican orquestra director Rafael de Paz. In the 1950s they recorded what many people consider to be the first cumbia recorded outside of Colombia, La Cumbia Cienaguera. He recorded other hits like Mi gallo tuerto, Caprichito, and Nochebuena. This is when Cumbia began to be popularized in Mexico with Tony Camargo as one of the first exponents of Mexican Cumbia. Cumbia had made its mark in Mexico D.F where mostly the people dance to it are called "Chilangos" which were people that were born in the main district. The dances have transformed through time by the style and with its new moderation.

In the 70s Aniceto Molina also emigrated to Mexico, where he joined the group from Guerrero, La Luz Roja de San Marcos, and recorded many popular tropical cumbias like El Gallo Mojado, El Peluquero, and La Mariscada. Also in the 70s Rigo Tovar became very popular with his fusion of Cumbia with ballad and Rock.

Today Cumbia is played in many different ways, and has slight variations depending on the geographical area like Cumbia sonidera, Cumbia andina mexicana, Cumbia Norteña, Tecno-cumbia.

Popular Mexican Cumbia composers and interpreters include Rigo Tovar y su Costa Azul, Celso Piña, Los Caminantes, Grupo Bronco, and Selena.

Art music


José Mojica was a Mexican Franciscan friar and former tenor and film actor.

The first opera by a Mexican-born composer was Manuel de Zumaya's La Parténope, performed in 1711 before a private audience in the Viceroy's Palace in Mexico City.[13] However, the first Mexican composer to have his operas publicly staged was Manuel Arenzana, the maestro de capilla at Puebla Cathedral from 1792 to 1821.[14] He is known to have written at least two works performed during the 1805/1806 season at the Teatro Coliseo in Mexico City — El extrangero and Los dos ribales en amore. Both were short comic pieces.[15] The first Mexican opera seria was Paniagua's Catalina de Guisa (composed in 1845 and premiered in 1859). With its story about the Huguenots in France and an Italian libretto by Felice Romani, contemporary critics noted that the only thing Mexican about it was the composer.[16][17]

Although the traditions of European opera and especially Italian opera had initially dominated the Mexican music conservatories and strongly influenced native opera composers (in both style and subject matter), elements of Mexican nationalism had already appeared by the latter part of the 19th century with operas such as Aniceto Ortega del Villar's 1871 Guatimotzin, a romanticised account of the defense of Mexico by its last Aztec ruler, Cuauhtémoc. Later works such as Miguel Bernal Jiménez's 1941 Tata Vasco (based on the life of Vasco de Quiroga, the first bishop of Michoacán) incorporated native melodies into the score.[16] Ángela Peralta, known in Europe as "The Mexican Nightingale", who sang in the premieres of operas by Paniagua, Morales, and Ortega del Villar.


Mexico has a long tradition of classical music, as far back as the 16th century, when it was a Spanish colony. Music of New Spain, especially that of Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla and Hernando Franco, is increasingly recognized as a significant contribution to New World culture.

Puebla was a significant center of music composition in the 17th century, as the city had considerable wealth and for a time was presided over by Bishop Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, who was an enthusiastic patron of music. Composers during this period included Bernardo de Peralta Escudero (mostly active around 1640), and also Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, who was the most famous composer of the 17th century in Mexico. The construction of the cathedral in Puebla made the composition and performance of polychoral music possible, especially compositions in the Venetian polychoral style. Late in the century, Miguel Matheo de Dallo y Lana set the verse of poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

In the 18th century, Manuel de Sumaya, maestro de capilla at the cathedral in Mexico City, wrote many cantadas and villancicos, and he was the first Mexican to compose an opera, La Partenope (1711). After him, Ignacio Jerusalem, an Italian-born composer, brought some of the latest operatic styles as well as early classical (galant) styles to Mexico. His best-known composition is probably the Matins for the Virgin of Guadalupe (1764). Jerusalem was maestro de capilla at the cathedral in Mexico City after Sumaya, from 1749 until his death in 1769.

The Jalisco Symphony Orchestra.

In the 19th century the waltzes of Juventino Rosas achieved world recognition. Manuel M. Ponce is recognized as an important composer for the Spanish classical guitar, responsible for widening the repertoire for this instrument. Ponce also wrote a rich repertoire for solo piano, piano and ensembles, and piano and orchestra, developing the first period of modernistic nationalism, using Native American and European resources, but merging them into a new, original style.

OFUNAM playing at Sala Nezahualcóyotl.

In the 20th century, Carlos Chávez, is a notable composer who wrote symphonies, ballets, and a wide catalog of chamber music, within varied esthetic orientations. Another recognized composer is Silvestre Revueltas who wrote such pieces as The night of the mayas, Homenaje a García Lorca, Sensemayá based on a poem by Nicolás Guillén, and orchestral suites like Janitzio and Redes originally written for motion pictures. José Pablo Moncayo with compositions such as Huapango, and Blas Galindo with Sones de Mariachi, are also recognized as adapters of Mexican sons into symphonic music. A later contributor to this tradition, Arturo Márquez is also internationally known by his orchestral mastery and melodic vivacity.

In 1922, Julián Carrillo (violinist, composer, conductor, theoretician and inventor), created the first microtonal system in the history of classical music. During subsequent years, he also developed and constructed harps and pianos able to play music in fragments of tone, like fourths, sixths, eighths and sixteenths. His pianos are still manufactured in Germany and are used to play Carrillo's music, mainly in Europe and Mexico.

Another contemporary Mexican composer was Conlon Nancarrow (of American birth), who created a system to play pianola music, using and developing theories of politempo and polimetrics.

Some avant-garde composers leading Mexican music during the second half of the 20th century were Alicia Urreta, Manuel Enríquez, Mario Lavista Juan Antonio Rosado Rodriguez, Julio Estrada and Lucia Alvarez. Some of them also contributed to the academic development of music teaching in American universities, a work also enriched by Daniel Catán, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, Guillermo Galindo, Carlos Sandoval, Ignacio Baca-Lobera, Hebert Vázquez, Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon and Samuel Zyman. In the other side of the Atlantic the composers of a new generation,** Javier Álvarez, Ana Lara, Víctor Rasgado, Juan Trigos, Hilda Paredes, Javier Torres Maldonado, Gabriel Pareyon, and Georgina Derbez, also have contributed to the academic and artistic life.


Some major exponents are Richard Lemus, Leo Acosta, Tino Contreras, Juan García Esquivel, Luis Ocadiz, J. J. Calatayud, Arturo Castro, Chilo Morán, Popo Sánchez, and Eugenio Toussaint. Antonio Sánchez is also a very well known jazz drummer and composer from Mexico City who has been performing with some of the best known American musicians since he moved to the US in the early 90's including Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Michael Brecker and Gary Burton besides leading his own bands and ensembles.

Table (traditional music ensembles)

Traditional ensembles and instruments
Ensemble Bowed Strings Plucked Strings Wood Winds Brass Winds Other Aerophones Membranophone Percussion Idiophone Percussion
Mariachi violin guitar, vihuela, guitarron trumpet
Banda clarinet, saxophone tuba, trombone, trumpet tambora, tarola cymbals
Conjunto norteño bajo sexto, double bass saxophone accordion drums, tarola redoba
Conjunto jarocho requinto jarocho, jarana jarocha, leona, harp pandero octagonal marimbol, quijada, güiro
Conjunto huasteco violin huapanguera, jarana huasteca
Marimba orquesta double bass saxophone drums marimba, güiro
Conjunto calentano violin guitarra sexta, guitarra panzona, double bass tamborita
Conjunto de arpa grande violin harp, guitar, vihuela, double bass
Jarana yucateca double bass clarinet, saxophone trumpet, trombone timpani cymbals, güiro
Conjunto de son de tarima vihuela, guitar cajón de tapeo
Conjunto mixteco violin guitar, bajo quinto cántaro
Trío romántico guitar, guitarra requinto maracas
Tamborileros de Tabasco flauta de tres hoyos tamboril, tamboril requinto
Orquesta típica violin bandolón, guitar, salterio clarinet snare drum
Flauta y Tamboril flauta de tres hoyos tambor de marco, tamborcito
Chirimía chirimía tambor
Conjunto de Costa Chica harmonica friction drum quijada
Tamborileros del norte clarinet tambora
Violín y tambora violin tambora
Prehispánico ocarina, caracol, flauta de tres hoyos huehuetl, tambor de u, kayum teponaztli, ayoyotes, sonaja

See also


  1. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Taylor & Francis. 2000. p. 606. ISBN 0-8240-4946-2.
  2. "Music of Mexico - Son, Ranchera, Mariachi".
  3. 1 2 Collins, Camille. "What is the mariachi?". Retrieved July 12, 2012.
  4. Brown, David M. (September 9, 2011). "Gilbert woman brings mariachi music to Southeast Valley.". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved July 12, 2012.
  5. Burr, Ramiro (June 26, 1994). "Mariachis: little-known, much-loved.". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved July 12, 2012.
  6. Broughton, Simon; Ellingham, Mark; Trillo, Richard (2000). World Music: The Rough Guide: Latin and North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific. London: Penguin Books (Rough Guides, Ltd.). p. 465. ISBN 1-85828-636-0.
  7. "Introduction to Mariachi Music.". TeacherVision. Retrieved July 12, 2012. External link in |publisher= (help)
  8. Brown, Patricia Leigh (September 19, 2008). "Once a Rock Star, Now a Matriarch of Mariachi.". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2012.
  9. Chris Hawley (July 16, 2010). "Mexico protects its mariachi plaza". New York. Retrieved June 20, 2012.
  10. "UNESCO Reconoce al mariachi como patrimonio de la humanidad" [UNESCO recognizes mariachi as a world heritage] (in Spanish). Mexico: INAH. November 27, 2011. Retrieved June 20, 2012.
  11. "Buzz Briefs: Luis Miguel, Bon Jovi". CBS News. July 8, 2008.
  13. Russell, Craig H. "Zumaya [Sumaya], Manuel de". In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
  14. Tiemastra, Suzanne Spicer, The choral music of Latin America: a guide to compositions and research, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1992, p. 8. ISBN 0-313-28208-0
  15. Catalyne, Alice Ray. "Arenzana, Manuel". In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
  16. 1 2 Grout, Donald Jay and Williams, Hermine Weigel, A short history of opera, Columbia University Press, 2003, p. 561. ISBN 0-231-11958-5
  17. Bethell, Leslie, The Cambridge History of Latin America, Volume 4, Cambridge University Press, 1984, p. 469. ISBN 0-521-23225-2
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