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The History Of The Mariachi Essay

1895 words - 8 pages

The History of the MariachiThe Wedding of Musical TraditionsPrior to the arrival of Cortes the music of Mexico, played with rattles, drums, reed and clay flutes, and conch-shell horns, was an integral part of religious celebrations. Quickly, however, as Christianity spread, in many areas these instruments gave way to instruments imported by the Spanish: violins, guitars and harps, brass horns, and woodwinds. The Indian and mestizo musicians not only learned to play European instruments, but also to build their own, sometimes giving them shapes and tunings of their own invention.Music and dance were important elements of Spanish theatrical productions, enormously popular throughout the Spanish speaking world during the colonial period. The typical Spanish theatrical orchestra of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries was comprised of violins (usually two), harp and guitars (or guitar variants). It was from this group that several of the most distinctive regional ensembles of Mexico developed, including the Mariachi.Mariachi - What Does It Mean?Musicologists and folklorists have argued for years over the origin of the word - Mariachi.The explanation that appears most frequently - especially on record jackets and in travel brochures - is that it is a variation of the French word mariage, meaning wedding or marriage, and comes from the time in the nineteenth century when Maximillian, a Frenchman, was Emperor of Mexico. According to this myth the Mariachi was named by the French after the celebration with which it was most commonly associated. But this explanation, always regarded as highly doubtful by linguists, was totally discredited recently when a use of the word was found that predated the time when the French arrived in Mexico.Currently, however, the best scholarly opinion is that the word mariachi has native roots. One theory is that it comes from the name of the wood used to make the platform on which the performers danced to the music of the village musicians. But whatever its true source - and the truth may never be discovered with absolute certainty - the word today has one meaning that is crystal clear: Mariachi means on of the most exciting and enchanting musical ensembles found anywhere in the world.The Unique Make-Up of the Mariachi EnsembleIn the complete Mariachi group today there are as many as six to eight violins, two trumpets, and a guitar - all standard European instruments. Then there is a high-itched, round-backed guitar called the vihuela, which when strummed in the traditional manner gives the Mariachi its typical rhythmic vitality; a deep-voiced guitar called the guitarró n which serves as the bass of the ensemble; and a Mexican folk harp, which usually doubles the base line, but also ornaments the melody. While these three instruments have European origins, in their present form they are strictly Mexican.The sound that these instruments combine to make is unique. Like the sarape, which often used...

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