Get your guitarron 

Mariachi and salsa spice up southern Colorado

click to enlarge Hold onto your belt buckles  its mariachi time!
  • Hold onto your belt buckles its mariachi time!

"To a mariachi, once a musician plays all of the notes in a song, he has only played half of the music."

Jeff Nevin, Virtuoso Mariachi

Mariachi is a state of mind, a piece of the heart aligned with a driving musical beat, born of Mexico.

Technically, the term mariachi refers to a band of musicians, a single musician within that band, or to the music itself, which follows a traditional line but adds double beats, accents and complex rhythms -- the other "half of the music."

A typical mariachi orchestra is composed of two or more trumpets, a vihuela (a small guitar-like instrument with a rounded back), three or more violins, guitars and a guitarron (a large bass version of the vihuela). Any or all members of a mariachi band may sing. The guitars establish the rhythm, the trumpets add flourishes and the violins sweeten the mix.

The music moves your soul, your hips and your feet. Guaranteed.

If you're confused, or want to know more, head to Pueblo on Friday for the Mariachi Fest, part of Colorado State University's 12th annual Colorado Music Fest, a celebration of the multicultural ethnic heritage of Pueblo and southern Colorado. The mariachi portion of the festival consists of a morning workshop for musicians interested in playing mariachi and an evening performance -- both headlined by Albuquerque's premier mariachi band, Mariachi Tenampa. The nine-member band has played around the world, introducing audiences to both traditional and contemporary styles.

Mariachi saw its heyday in the United States in the 1950s and '60s, when a group of Mexico City musicians relocated to Los Angeles and popularized the music among non-Latinos while affirming the musical tradition of Mexican immigrants. Though marginalized and trivialized in commercial media for the next few decades, mariachi is experiencing an important comeback today as new orchestras are created and a growing Latino population demands more of the music nationwide.

Following on the coattails of, or possibly helping drive this trend, is the simultaneous revival of salsa dancing in clubs across America. La Candela, a Denver-based, Cuban-style 10-piece dance band, will bring its swinging sounds to the Colorado College campus on Saturday, July 2, for an evening of salsa, timba, cha-cha, pachanga, cumbia and merengue.

Summer nights in Colorado Springs and Pueblo are sure to heat up in the next few weeks, not least because of the hot musical beats mixing with the night air. Head down to Pueblo for a dose of mariachi and follow it up with a night of salsa dancing beneath the stars.

Your inner mariachi will thank you.

-- Kathryn Eastburn


Mariachi Fest, featuring Mariachi Tenampa and Mariachi Acoiris

Friday, June 24

$12 reserved seating; $10 for senior citizens.

For details, call 719/549-2126; for tickets, call 719/295-7222.

La Candela: Salsa Under the Stars!

Saturday, July 2, 7 p.m.

Worker Quad, Colorado College campus (corner of North Cascade Avenue and Cache La Poudre Street) rain backup is Gates Common Room Worner Center.

Visit coloradocollege.edu/ summerprograms for more.


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