Croatian Mariachi in Guadalajara
Posted on Sun, Sep. 14, 2003
Mariachi mania is drawing wannabes from around world
GUADALAJARA, Mexico - (AP) -- It's not easy to be a mariachi -- at least not if you're from Japan or Croatia.
About 434 musicians from around the world gathered in Mexico's mariachi heartland last week to learn to walk the walk, to talk the talk -- and, please, to forget the accordions.
Every year, some of the finest mariachi musicians give classes and tips to foreigners as well as locals trying to master one of the most Mexican of musical genres.
''We want our mariachi to be closer to those here, to where the mariachi was born,'' said Hidejiro Mimura of the Japanese group Amigo Nippon.
''We still lack a lot -- the rhythms, the words, and singing in Spanish is difficult for us, but we are doing it,'' he added.
The groups get a chance to play publicly in Guadalajara, Mexico's second-most-populous city, which takes pride in its image as a center of mariachi music -- a place where bands in elaborate charro cowboy get-ups stroll the Plaza de los Mariachis offering their songs to visitors.
Most groups include five to 10 musicians playing stringed instruments and trumpets, though the size of the groups can vary widely.
Instructors at the yearly workshops teach traditional Mexican songs as well as some of the finer points, such as mastering a Mexican accent if you don't speak Spanish.
''They have even taught us how to stand because it's not only playing but expressing to the listeners how elegant it is to form a line, whether it's curved or straight,'' said Aristides Lapuglia of Panama's Mariachi Corazon de America.
Past visitors have included groups from Croatia, Italy and Australia. Most this year are from the Americas, though even Spanish-speaking visitors can offend the purists.
''A lot of Latin American mariachis come to us using the accordion or flute,'' complained Cesar Carrillo Valle, the event coordinator.
Sometimes local variations on a common language can get you into trouble too, noted Andres Gonzalez Lazo, a singer with the Nuevo Mariachi de Tecalitlan and a teacher.
He recalled that a Venezuelan audience burst into laughter when he sang a traditional Mexican song about a marksman wooing his girlfriend.
He said he was proud that people from other countries come to learn the music even if, like those from Japan, ``it is harder for them. They don't understand Spanish but they do it perfectly, even if they don't know what they are saying.''