WAC celebrates with mariachi music

WAC celebrates with mariachi music

¡Feliz Navidad! It’s Christmastime south of the border, too, and Latin Grammy-nominated Mariachi Herencia de México brings a blend of Mexican and American Christmas favorites to the Walton Arts Center Dec. 21. A Very Mariachi Christmas musical director Marco A. Villela took time to answer these questions for The Free Weekly.

Q. What sets mariachi music apart from any other music you might hear in Mexico? What makes it unique?

A. Mariachi music is one of the oldest genres in all of Mexico, and one of the more popular ones at that, too! The instruments within a mariachi are what set it apart from other genres like norteño, for example. The Guitarrón (bass guitar) and the vihuela (ukulele-style Mexican variation of the Spanish vihuela) were designed and crafted specifically for the mariachi and are what give it its identity. Through the versatility in its rhythms, this gives mariachi the ability to play any genre of music.

Mariachi music was also huge during the golden age of Mexican cinema! In World War II, Hollywood shut down, and the equipment [was] taken to Mexico, where musicals and dramas were filmed and shown throughout the world. Artists like Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete take rise singing the music of Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Manuel Esperon, etc., in an opera/musical manner. Thus, the world was introduced to mariachi, exponentially increasing its popularity.

Q. How did Mariachi Herencia de México get together?

A. Mariachi Herencia de México started as an all-city program in 2016 aimed to teach children within the Chicago Public School system about their heritage and the music of mariachi. This program was under the Mariachi Heritage Foundation. The original program consisted of three different proficiency levels, where the top group grew to become Mariachi Herencia after recording one album and receiving a Latin Grammy Nomination for that album in 2017. Since then, we’ve recorded another four albums, [and] our latest one, “Herederos,” also received a Latin Grammy Nomination for Best Album Ranchero/Mariachi! We flew to Seville, Spain, for the Grammy Awards ceremony to represent the Mexican community and their music.

Q. On tour, do you most often play for Spanish-speaking audiences or non-Spanish audiences or both? What do you love about both kinds of audiences?

A. Throughout the two years of the Herederos tour, we’ve played for a multitude of audiences of different cultures and backgrounds. One of our favorite things is how amazed and blown away the audience feels after seeing the show. For the non-Spanish speaking audience, it makes us happy knowing how this may have been their first time viewing a mariachi live on stage and enjoying the music of Mexico. And for the Spanish speaking audience, it warms our hearts how immigrants get to feel like they’re at home through our music, and how our Caribbean and Central/South American brothers get to experience the music of neighboring lands. It’s a wonderful thing that means a lot to us!

Q. Tell me a little bit about the Christmas traditions you grew up with?

A. With half of the group being born and raised in the States, we grew up with the best of both worlds: American traditions and Mexican traditions. As kids, not only did we participate in posadas and made tamales and champurrado with our families, but we also enjoyed decorating our houses, exchanging gifts via secret Santa, watching holiday classics like “Home Alone,” “Elf,” etc. It’s something that we’ve had the privilege as first generation born that we’re extremely grateful for!

Q. What do you hope audiences take away from your Christmas performance at the Walton Arts Center?

A. We hope audiences enjoy our carefully crafted showcase of music from both Mexico and the United States. Not only are we playing music from the Mexican repertoire, but we also take on classic Christmas carols that have been “mariachi-fied” and arranged for a mariachi ensemble. It’ll be a magical night filled with fun for everyone, and we look forward to play on the stage!



A Very Mariachi Christmas

WHEN — 7 p.m. Dec. 21

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $10

INFO — waltonartscenter.org, 443-5600

Categories: Cover Story