Response to Interview Questions
Added June 14, 2004
- Where did you grow up?
Tucson. I was born in Los Angeles, CA, and have lived in Tucson since I was 4. My parents are from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.
- How old were you when you started playing or singing mariachi music?
I joined a youth group “Mariachi San Xavier” when I was 14, played for approximately 1-1 ½ years then gave up the violin for over 25 years. Sounds like a long, long, time!
- Why did you start playing/singing mariachi music?
Music has always been a part of my family’s home life. As children, my brothers and sisters would put on a show for attendees at our family parties, or even present a show for the neighborhood kids. My family has old photographs of my sisters wearing matching outfits for some entertainment event, or of my brothers performing at our house. At family gatherings most of our family sang; it was a part of our heritage and personalities. My mother, father, sisters, brothers, uncles, all usually sang at our get-togethers. Some of us were shy about it and ran when were requested to sing, but most of my siblings seemed to want to be a part of the entertainment for the evening.
- Tell us about the instrument you play. Do you have a favorite? Why is it your favorite?
I don’t have a favorite instrument, but like the violin the most. The violin has such a unique sound that varies from instrument to instrument, from player to player, and from each style and genre.
- Do you sing? Do you have a favorite song? Why is it your favorite?
There are so many well written, and profound lyrics to songs that we play. Even some of the “silly songs” that we play, make it on our list of overplayed songs. I don’t really have a favorite, but Alma Llanera, Mucho Corazon, Nobleza, Amemonos, La Barca, La Gloria Eres Tu, & Mi Viejo are towards the top of my list. I tend to prefer songs with well written, or meaningful lyrics; I could easily list a hundred great songs.
- What was your first instrument? How did you get it? Do you still have it? What happened to it?
My fist instrument was the guitar, as this was the instrument my father played. There was always a guitar in our living room which was always in use by one of my brothers or sisters.
- Are other members of your family mariachi musicians?
Yes, I have a brother who has been a musician since he was a child, and has chosen music as his career. My other siblings also partake in music. My oldest sister played accordion as a young girl, most of my brothers know a few chords on the guitar, or play it well. One brother plays trumpet, guitar, keyboard, & vihuela fluently.
- Who are the musicians you admire, or have influenced your music?
I am not involved so much in music that I can claim anyone has influenced me musically. There are many musicians who I regard highly; yet, I couldn’t list a few and feel fair about it. There are a few whom I like for their voices, some for their personalities, some for their performing ability, and some for their dedication and contribution to society. Sorry to leave so much latitude to this response.
- Do you write music? Tell us about your writing process.
Yes, but not a whole lot. I usually write out any difficult parts to songs which my section (violins) will be performing, especially if we don’t come to an agreement to what we hear in a recording. I have recently started working on some original works and have written out the parts to these songs for the rest of musicians in our group. As for the process, I try to improvise first and record myself. If I like what I came up with, I write it down.
- What do you like best about performing?
I think that our entire group feels the same as I do; we all enjoy leaving our audience with a feeling of appreciation for our performance. When we decide on a song to perform, we always consider our audience’s interest and receptivity to the selection prior to choosing a song or arrangement. We try not to select a song only because we like it.
- What relationship do you see between mariachi music and Hispanic culture?
Mariachi music is definitely a part of the Hispanic culture. Mariachi music goes hand in hand with balet folklorico. Most of the songs that were created around the time of the Mexican Revolution were recorded with mariachi. Many latin performers incorporate mariachi, or a mariachi sound into their repertoire even though they are not from Mexico. Some of Shakira’s greatest hits are songs that were recorded with mariachi, yet she is from Columbia. Mariachi music is popular even in many non-spanish speaking countries.
- Our project is called “Del Corazón- from the heart” so, what does Mariachi mean to you? Is the music about community? Language? History? Good times? Family? Etc.
All of the above. Unfortunately, this question cannot be answered without some elaboration. Every group of people with a sense of its own identity shares, as a central part of their identity, folk traditions. These are the things that people traditionally believe in, do, or know, such as family traditions, folk medicine, sewing, preparation of foods, music, etc. and these practices are passed down through generations largely by oral communication and behavioral examples. Mariachi is good example of one of these traditions.
Mariachi is not just a genre of music as many would think. Although one can categorize mariachi by the style of music, it is much more than just a category of music. To me, Mariachi is folklore. It’s not solely Mexican folklore music; but rather folklore as a whole. Folklore is art, literature, and knowledge which is transmitted by word of mouth or customary examples (i.e. dance) in every culture; Mariachi fits this description.
Mariachi is a part of my heritage, and touches on many facets of my culture. It is a form of musical art, literature and knowledge. Many pieces of music have been handed down by word of mouth, or dance, as mentioned above. There are many songs in the mariachi genre which no one has copyright to, as they were handed down via this oral communication before copyrighting was ever an issue.
Folklore comprises the unrecorded traditions of a group of people or culture. It includes both the form and content of these traditions and their style or technique of communication from person to person. No song, performance, nor act of creation can be properly understood apart from the culture or subculture from which it is found and of which it is a part of. Nor should any "work of art" be looked on as a thing in itself apart from its continuum of creation. With all this said, mariachi too cannot be completely understood without having a true sense of the culture behind it.
My answer to this question is “all of the above, Community, Language, History, Family, and Good times. Sorry to be so descriptive, yet no simple definition would have been sufficient.
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