Music of Mexico

From Academic Kids

The music of Mexico is extraordinarily diverse and features a wide range of different musical styles. The most well-known Mexican genre by far is mariachi, which is considered outdated but respected traditional music and is not listened to as comtemporary music. Norteño and banda are not only popular within Mexico, but they are also frequently enjoyed by working-class Mexican immigrants in both rural and urban American communities. Norteño, similar to Tejano music and Tex-Mex, arose in the 1930s and 40s in the Rio Grande border region of southern Texas. Influenced by Bohemian immigrant miners, its rhythm was derived from the European polka dance popular during the 1800s. Banda, similar to norteño in musical form, originated from the Mexico state of Sinaloa during the 1960s. Other new styles such as cumbia, pop, and rock have seen increased popularity as the music of Mexico faces a new generation of young people.

Southern Mexican folk music is centered around the marimba, which remains popular in Chiapas and Oaxaca. In Yucatán the traditional Jarana music and dance is popular.


Mexican son

In the 1940s, Mexican music began its rise to international fame, just as Cuban music was topping charts across the globe. Since then, Mexico has absorbed influences from across Latin America, most especially include Colombian cumbia, which is now as much or more known as a Mexican trend than a Colombian one.

Mexican pop music derives from a mixture of Spanish, African and Aztec or other indigenous sources. Related to Cuban son montuno and Venezuelan joropo, Mexican son arose in the 18th century. It is similar to, but historically and characteristically distinct from, Cuban son montuno, despite the similarity in nomenclature. Nine or ten styles of Mexican son have been popular, including mariachi. Mexican son has been rural for most of its history, and requires audience participation for zapateado, or foot-stamping done in a counter-rhythm. Most bands use string instruments and improvised lyrics.


As the most well-known regional musicians of Mexico, mariachi bands became common in Jalisco around the beginning of the 20th century, originally playing at weddings. The earliest known appearance of this term in reference to music is from 1852. It is said that General Porfirio Díaz, in 1907, ordered a mariachi band to play for the United States Secretary of State, only if they wore charro suits, which were worn by the poor musicians' bosses. This is the source of traditional dress for mariachi bands, and is considered the beginning of modern mariachi. By the turn of the century, mariachi was popular across Mexico. Rural subgenres have largely died out, and urban mariachi from Mexico City has dominated the field since the 1930s. It became known as the national music of Mexico after the 1910 Mexican Revolution, and was subsidized during the term of Lázaro Cárdenas. Cornets were added to mariachi in the 1920s; they were replaced by trumpets ten years later.

Mexican immigrants in the United States made Los Angeles the mariachi capital of the USA by 1961. Mexican music was popularized in the United States in the late 1970s as part of a revival of mariachi music led by performers like Linda Ronstadt. One of the most well known examples of Mexican music (at least in the United States) is "La Cucaracha" and the Mexican Hat Dance ("El jarabe tapatío").

The golden age of mariachi was in the 1950s, when the ranchera style was common in American movies. Mariachi Vargas played for many of these soundtracks, and the long-lived band's long career and popular acclaim has made it one of the best-known mariachi bands.


Jalisco's folk music (jaliscienses) is the source of the internationally-revered mariachi genre, after it was popularized by Mexican cinema.


Jarochos music comes from the Veracruz area, and is distinguished by a strong African influence. International acclaim has been limited, including the major hit "La Bamba". The most legendary performer is Graciana Silva, whose Discos Corason releases made inroads in Europe. Southern Veracruz is home to a distinct style of Jarochos that is characteristically lacking a harp, is played exclusively by requinto or jarana guitars, and is exemplified by the popular modern band Mono Blanco.


Sierra Gorda's villages are home to trovadores who play arribeño music. Known for lyrical innovation, the genre is competitive in nature, and is accompanied by guitars and violins. Guillermo Velázquez is the best-known exponent of arribeño.


Melodically complex violin music from the Balsas River Basin of western Mexico. Juan Reynoso is especially popular, and has won the National Prize for Arts and Sciences.

Arpa grande

Sones de arpa grande developed in an arid, hot area of western Mexico. It is dominated by a harp, accompanied by violins and guitars. Originally confined to poor rural areas and urban brothels, sones de arpa grande is now popular among the suburban and urban middle- and upper-class audiences. Juan Pérez Morfín and Beto Pineda are the most well-known performers.

Abajeños and istmeños

Indigenous communities have produced their own variants of Mexican son, which is otherwise a primarily mestizo genre. The Purépecha (from Michoacán) are known for the sones abajeños, which are often played alongside pirekaus, a form of native love song. Famous bands include Atardecer and Erandi.

The Zapotecs of Oaxaca have produced some extremely famous love songs, and the people's sones istmeños, which are sung in both Zapotec and Spanish. The music has been popularized, primarily by pop stars from outside the area, including Lila Downs.

Son huasteco

Son huasteco music, a style developed by Mexico's Huastec people, is a genre which has been gaining in popularity in recent years. Two guitarists sing in a falsetto with accompaniment by a violin. Improvisation is common. Los Camperos de Valle and Trio Tamazunchale are especially influential performers.

Norteño and banda

The first major international trend from Mexico was the popularization of ranchera, which had developed early in the 20th century out of mariachi, and became popular in Latin America after being used in several films. Thus, a new traditional Mexican ranchera (country music) style came out. Norteño and banda are popular bands that play mainly rancheras and corridos. Most first-generation Mexicans prefer norteño and banda, while the younger generation are more oriented toward cumbia and Latin hip-hop. Many Mexican radio stations in the United States are devoted to playing mainly norteño and banda, such as the radio station "97.9 en East Los Angeles - el número uno en bandas y norteñas!"

Norteño music (similar to Tex-Mex and Tejano in the United States) almost always has the accordion as the lead instrument, with guitars serving as its roos. Norteño is an outgrowth of corridos which told tales of the Mexican Revolution. In the late 1920s, the corridos entered a golden age when Mexicans on both sides of the border recorded in San Antonio, Texas-area hotels, revolutionizing the genre alongside Mexico's political revolution. By the time the golden age ended, Narciso Martínez and Santiago Jimenez had introduced the accordion, which had been introduced by Bohemian miners who immigrated to the country in the late 19th century. Alongside the accordion came the polka, which, alongside waltzes, chotis and mazurka, mixed with corridos to form modern norteño in the early 1950s. Although norteño originated in the American state of Texas, it is popular among Mexican Americans from virtually any region of the United States. Later in the century, bands such as Los Tigres del Norte and Los Cadetes de Linares added influences from cumbia, rock music, and other new styles, thus creating a unique new blend in some of their new songs.

Banda music, or Mexican big band music, originated in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa. In the 1990s, banda exploded in popularity among Hispanics in both the United States and Mexico. Originally instrumental, this style was popularized by Banda el Recodo, Julio Preciado, and other major stars who started including lyrics and converting popular songs into this genre.

Musica duranguense

Musica durangunese (often simply called duranguense) is a type of music which originated from the northern Mexican state of Durango. Located just east of Sinaloa, where banda began, its music is based on both brass and wind instruments and includes the clarinet, trumpet, flute, and drums. It is usually played at a rapid tempo and relies more on percussion than banda does. ([1] ( In the 2000s, musica duranguense rose to fame as it gained position as an equal with banda and norteño. Duranguense bands play mainly rancheras, polkas, and cumbias. Some of the most popular artists include El Grupo Montez, Patrulla 81, and El Grupo Joven de Durango.

Click here ( to hear what a typical duranguense song sounds like. (Piedra by Patrulla 81)

Cumbia and pop

The 1980s saw Colombian cumbia become even more popular in Mexico than its native land, and it was by far the dominant genre throughout the decade, before banda overtook it in the 1990s. In the early 1970's and 1980's Mexican bands like Rigo Tovar y su Costa Azul and Los Bukis topped the charts, and helped inspire grupera bands at the end of the decade. These included Yonics, Bronco and Banda Machos.

Rock and electronic music

The same period saw a relaxation of regulations that restricted importation of foreign music. The result was the appearance of Mexican rock bands like Café Tacuba, Los Caifanes, Maná, and Maldita Vecindad. Last are "grandfathers" to a Latin-Ska movement, with Pantheón Rococó as the most prominent band. Electronic Music is prominent in the North with the Nortec Collective and Noiselab Collective on its forefront, Mexico City has a considerable movement of bands playing surf rock inspired in their outfits by local show-sport lucha libre, with Lost Acapulco initiating and leading the movement.

Classical music

Mexico has a long tradition of classical music, as far back as the 16th century, when it was a Spanish colony. Music of New Spain, especially that of Juan Gutierrez de Padilla and Hernando Franco, is increasingly recognized as a significant contribution to New World culture. In the 20th century, Carlos Chavez is a composer of note who wrote symphonies, ballets, and more.


  • Farquharson, Mary. "Much More Than Mariachi". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 463-476. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

pt:Música do México


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