Thirty years of hard work, 14-hour sets in smoky bars, endless cocktail parties and countless wedding receptions are starting to pay off for New Mexico's most famous mariachi band.
On Friday, June 25, Mariachi Tenampa, a veteran ensemble almost three decades in the making, will share the stage with one of Mexico's most adored young starlets, Dulce Maria Castro, in concert at the Colorado Springs City Auditorium.
"We know the common stereotypes about the music we play," said Al Gurule, director and member of Mariachi Tenampa. "We play traditional music, but we're also professionals and we've paid our dues."
That, of course, is an understatement.
Mariachi Tenampa's roots stretch back to the early 1970s, when the group, which took its name from a famous bar in Mexico City, began playing small-time shows in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. By 1987, none of the band's original members remained, but a new group of eager musicians, including Gurule, resurrected the band name and embarked on a rigorous touring and performance schedule.
From the beginning, Mariachi Tenampa has distinguished itself from the numerous mariachi bands working the touring circuit in the Southwest, with a stylistically diverse repertoire that includes forays into classical music, balladry, dance music and even a stirring mariachi arrangement of Bizet's opera Carmen.
"Mariachis, in the original sense, were musicians who could be called upon to provide any kind of entertainment needed," said Gurule, "so we're following in that same tradition."
Ranging in age from 25 to 50, the group's current eight members perform on a variety of instruments, including the vihuela (a small, percussive guitar), as well as trumpets, violins and guitars. Yet, despite their stellar musicianship, Gurule claims it's often difficult for the group to be taken seriously in certain corners.
"People who aren't familiar with our music usually expect a bunch of guys walking down the street with little sombreros," said Gurule, "but our goal is to affect people of all races and nationalities, not to reinforce a clich."
The opportunity to perform with Dulce Maria Castro, who recently went solo after spending six years fronting the popular Guadalajara-based band Versatil Fox, is a chance for Mariachi Tenampa to broaden their fan base and explore new stylistic terrain.
"We've just met Dulce Maria, and we're excited to be playing her songs," said Gurule. "Hopefully, this event will not only be a chance for people to come together and have a good time, but we also hope it helps bring about wider appreciation of mariachi music in general," said Gurule.
Dulce Maria's style, which borrows heavily from norteno, cumbia, salsa and merengue, is an amalgamation of Latin flavor, but the difficult task of backing her up on stage doesn't intimidate the guys in Mariachi Tenampa.
"It's going to be a great honor to perform with her," said Gurule. "We've been doing this for a long time, and the challenges are really what keep us going."
capsule Dulce Maria Castro with Mariachi Tenampa
Friday, June 25, 7 p.m.
Colorado Springs City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa St.
Call TicketsWest at 576-2626 or 866/464-2626