For the Concert report I attended the Festival de la Familia at Cal expo on April 25th. The first thing I did when I got there was to look for a schedule or program of the events that were going on. It turns out there were more performers than I could actually watch. I headed first to the tower stage as I could hear music coming from there. I got there and a Mariachi band was playing. I looked at the event program and it was the Tonantzin Mariachi according to the program but apparently it wasn’t. I overhead people saying that the mariachi band was actually a different one that the one listed.
The mariachi band members were all wearing traditional charro costumes. I got to hear three songs before the band ended their session. However these songs were pretty melodic and upbeat. They didn’t dance much but they did move in unison to the rhythm of the music. The melody was pretty joyful, it seemed that it was made especially for celebrations. There was an obvious harmony laid by violins matching the main melody. It was really nice hearing how all the different harmonies from the different instrument groups complemented each other, these songs all had a very nice texture.
The rhythm was easy to decode as it was made by the guitar players muting the guitar strings with the palms of their hands to create a beat. They would also stomp on the ground every once in a while to the beat of the music.
The instrumentation was pretty standard, it consisted of guitars, a guitarron,a couple violins and trumpets, and a singer. All instruments are of Europena decent (“Mariachi”). The most interested instrument was the guitarron. It was different in that it is usually only found in mariachi bands. Although the guitarron that the Mariachi bands use is actually called guitarron mexicano or Mexican guitarron as there is a Chilean and an Argentinian version of the guitarron as well. (“The Guitarron”). Althought it seems the guitarron comes directly from the guitar it actually does not. The guitarron was developed independently in 16th century Spain independently from the Spanish “bajo de uña.” It replaced the harp in the 20th century (“What is the mariachi?”).
The trumpets were not originally part of the Mariachi band’s arsenal. As Mariachi music became more popular and because of the popularity of jazz and Cuban music mariachi bands started adopting the trumpet to accompany or replace the violins and harp. (“What is the mariachi?”).
The mariachi band is believed to have originated from Jalisco, Mexico, although nobody seems to know where the name Mariachi came from (“What is the mariachi?”). The instruments used in a mariachi band were introduced by Spain. They were originally meant to be used in mass, but later on criollos began to use them to create popular music (“What is the mariachi?”).
Back when Mariachis started, they represented the pride and culture of the Mexican people(“What is the mariachi?”). Today, the same can be said as when one listens mariachi music usually the first thing that comes into mind is something to do with Mexico.
The band I saw at the event hasn’t deviated much from the old traditions. They still wear the old traditional costume, the large hats, the songs were traditional ones. They did put to use all the modern mariachi band instruments including the guitarron and trumpets. There was no harp present. In my opinion, I would says that there’s not a lot of difference between the Mariachi bands around the world. Most of them play the same songs but the different comes in the quality of their sound, the way the play their instruments so that the song sounds like one good piece instead of a mix of instruments d also the singer. I heard some singers in mariachi bands whose voices just don’t match the song at all.
Later on I went to the tent Top Stage and got to see the group BF Las Estrellas de Hayward. I hope that’ was what they were called since it seemed that the schedule was a little bit off and the performers were performing at different stages than the ones they were listed on the handout. This was a dance group. Although there was no live music playing here, it was recorded, but it was still nice to listen to it and watch the traditional dances of Veracruz, Mexico or jarocho.
These dancers were wearing the traditional white guayabera shirts and white pants and hats. The women were wearing colorful dresses and head decorations. They were all wearing special shoes with which the would tap on the ground or do the zapateados to create a percussive sound that would complement the other instruments.
I would say that the dancers tried to keeps the traditional form that was used since the beginning of the jarocho music.
The whole performance had a very tropical feeling to it, especially after they brought in statues of sea creatures such as sea starts and sea horses. It would have been nice if they were actual live instruments playing but from what I listened I could tell some of the instruments that were playing. One of the most noticeable instruments was the harp which made the music sound very Caribbean like and you could also hear guitars on the background laying the main rhythm.
Afterwards, the group Samba da Terra made their presence into the stage. They were a Brazilian samba group located in Sacramento. They started out with about 6 drummers creating a steady beat. The tempo was pretty slow but it picked up as time went by. The drummers did not seem to wearing any ethnic clothing or costumes. They were all wearing t-shirts with the Samba da Terra logo on them and short pants or long shorts. The only instruments played during their entire performance were drums of different styles and sizes. The drums sounded different enough from each other to distinguish the timbre even though all of them were beat at about the same volume. There wasn’t much harmony; the drums themselves don’t have a very harmonic sound. There were lots of dynamics though. Some beats were louder that others. The was a lead drum player with a different type of drum that he would ply similar to a regular snare. He would play his own part but he would accentuate certain beats to amplifly the beats made by the other drums. If it wasn’t for the dynamics, the beat would have sounded pretty lifeless and simple. The texture was simple, there were the bigger drums seting a deep bass sound while the smaller drums had a higher pitch and very played a little faster that the bigger drums. Some of the players would alternate between using their hands and stick to create different sounds. There also wan’t much of a melody, only a study beat and rhythm. They would however change it about every 30 seconds.
You could tell that there was an African influence in the samba. For one, the beat had a very tribal feeling to it. The instrument s have their roots back to Africa as well. The drums came from slaves brought to Brazil by the Portuguese. (“Samba”)
Later, the group was joined by a group of female dancers that dance to the rhythm of the drumming. That’s when things got more interesting. The female dancers were in traditional samba costumes which were pretty colorful and were wearing this huge head pieces adorned with feathers.
As the dancers were dancing to the beat the drummers would suddenly change the tempo pretty drastically to a really fast one and the dancers would try to keep up with it. Later the tempo would slow down and so would the dancers.
At first, the dancer were doing a pretty simple dance, as the performance progressed they started doing some pretty complex dances that seem to tak e a lot skill to pull of. You could tell which dancers had more experience by observing them dance during the complex parts.
Samba da Terra was formed in 2001 by Marta Santos. Marta is a native Brazilian that has participated in various Samba event including the Carnaval of Brazil.
Afterwards, as I was walking towards the exit of the expo, I ran into Aztec dancers. They were doing a traditional dance. Most of them were wearing traditional Aztec clothing and articles. The performer were of different age. The were kids that seem to be about 8 to 12 years old to full grown adults in their 40s or 50s. The main instrument seems to be a drum in which the main beat was formed. Each dance had some type of foot shaker that created noise every time the dancer moved. The group seemed to be divided, some dancer would be doing the same part while another groups while another group would be doing another. The older dancers were the ones with the drums. There was a certain dancer that seem to have a special role. She was a young kid that dance differently from the others. She was doing some type of jump/sneaking movement in between the other dancer as if she was looking for something. I was surprised about this because the dance that she was doing seem pretty hard and tiring compared to the others.
The music was simple. It was mostly drums accompanied by the shakers. There was the occasional vocal chanting.
The overall melody seemed to be calling for something, as in calling a God for help or a war dance.
There was a war like rhythm to the sound structure of the Aztec dancers. The main beat was laid off by the two drummers. It was complemented by the rattles in the feet of all the dancers, in fact the rattles created a sort of melody. You could distinguish between the sound of the two drums because one of the drummers would play softer that the other. The dynamics also changed to give a more dramatic beat and the dancers would move more dramatically to compensate. The tempo stay relatively the same thought out the entire performance. The texture was relatively simple just consisting of the noise coming from the rattles and the drum beat.
Before the pre-Hispanic times in Mexico, the Aztecs would dance and sing as an offering to the Gods. (“Mexican Dances”) . The dance purpose was to ask for good fertility, crops and earth. The Aztecs would use two drums used during the dance called the huéhuetl y teponaztle. (“Mexican Dances”) both drums are skin drums. (“The aztec music) The huéhuetl was played wit the hands while the teponaztle was played with mallets.
The rattles found on the feet of the dancers are called
There’s not much known about the Aztecs musical culture prior the arrival of the Spanish. (“Mexicolore”)
After the Spanish conquistadors came and the Mexican empire fell the use of drums or any other percussion instrument was forbidden and any one found using on would get its hands cut off (“Mexican Dances”) This lead to the development of the guitars made of animal shells. (“Mexican Dances”) Later in the 1930-1940s, the old instruments such as the the huéhuetl y teponaztle started to be used again because of Manuel Pinda Escalona, Gabriel Osorio. (“Mexican Dances”)
Today most Aztec dance groups consist of a few drummers an and group of dancers. It’s hard to find the traditional instruments used back in time such as the armadillo or tortoise guitars and drums (Ayotl) or the Omichicauaztli which was made out of deer bones. (“Aztec Music”)
Overall, the research that
http://www.cumpiano.com/Home/Articles/Special%20interest/Acbass/guitarron.html “The guitarron”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guitarr%C3%B3n_mexicano “Guitarrón mexicano”
http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/1875-what-is-the-mariachi “What is the mariachi?”
http://www.sambadaterra.com/aboutus.html “Samba Da Terra: About us”
http://www.barraganzone.com/mexicandances_aztec.html “Mexican Dances”
http://www.aztec-indians.com/aztec-music.html “Aztec Music”
http://www.aztec-history.com/aztec-music.html “tHE aZTEC mUSIC”)