Musical Genres in Mexico

By Deborah Van Hoewyk


As you might guess from the name, banda uses a lot of brass instruments, and just like brass bands anywhere, banda groups play almost any kind of music. Dating back to the 19th century, when piston brass horns arrived Mexico, banda first took off in Sinaloa; however, almost every little town soon had its own banda, usually with brass, woodwinds, and percussion – es.

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Conjunto can just mean a musical ensemble, but it’s also the distinct Tex-Mex music of the northern border, specifically tejano or norteño. Border music usually features the accordion, brought to the border by 19th-century German, Czech, and Polish settlers in Texas, combined with Mexico’s 12-string bajo sexto guitar. Eminently dance-able, especially if you can do the polka!

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Cumbia (pronounced kum-bee-yah) made its way up to Mexico from Colombia. Very popular by the 1980s, it combines Colombian influences with Mexican norteño and ranchero styles, as well as African, Amerindian, and European sounds. Instruments usually include accordions, drums, flutes, and maracas.

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Ranchera music, a traditional Mexican form, got a boost with the Mexican Revolution (1920-21), and played a part in developing a new national identity. Land reforms and job opportunities brought rural people into cities, and they brought with them the rural folk songs and the nostalgic memories they recalled – themes emphasize nature, love, patriotism. By the 1940s, ranchera music was made even more popular by the rise of ranchera movies – Mexico’s version of the westerns on America’s silver screen. Ranchera, like country music in the U.S., is still with us and probably always will be.

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