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Banda Maguey

Archivos de 1996 (starring Jennifer y Los Jetz, Los Tigres, y más)

jennifer-pena

The Regional Mexican charts of 1996 held four separate genres. One of them was the deathless norteño of Los Tigres and Los Huracanes; the other three were in various stages of decline.

The technobanda of Bandas Machos and Maguey still thrived, but in a few years would be eclipsed by acoustic banda. Helena Simonett’s book Banda lays out the commercial leapfrogging these two styles played with one another throughout the ’90s.

Tejano fans were still mourning Selena — see #7 below — but they were also welcoming newcomers like Jennifer Peña y Los Jetz (see the Pick to Click, below) and Bobby Pulido (see the terrible song right below her). There were, however, rumblings on the horizon. San Antonio and Dallas were suffering from too many Tejano bookers flooding the market, one promoter told Billboard‘s Ramiro Burr. Some bands complained that clubs were replacing live bands with DJs. Burr would spend the next several years chronicling the decline of the Tejano genre as a commercial force, though it still exists for a small but fervent fanbase.

The third synth-based style, grupo music, also still exists, but its commercial mojo would peter out more abruptly. Marco Antonio Solís had just left Los Bukis and was scoring a bunch of solo Hot Latin #1 hits that sounded way more pop than the rest of his cohort. (See #2 below.) Bronco would retire in 1997, leaving Los Temerarios and Los Mismos to care for the genre. I think. NorteñoBlog’s disinterest in grupo music remains strong and resolute.

[EDIT: I just checked and Los Temerarios were still scoring big hits in 2004, and possibly later, so maybe the petering was more gradual.]

These were the Top 15 Regional Mexican songs, as published by Billboard on November 9, 1996: Continue reading “Archivos de 1996 (starring Jennifer y Los Jetz, Los Tigres, y más)”

Money, Innovation, and Resentment: Helena Simonett’s “Banda: Mexican Musical Life Across Borders”

simonettCurrent reading on the NorteñoBlog nightstand is Helena Simonett’s 2001 book Banda: Mexican Musical Life Across Borders. Simonett is an ethnomusicologist at Vanderbilt University; she spent much of the ’90s interviewing banda musicians and fans around L.A. and northwestern Mexico. If you think back to ’90s banda — at least to the small extent that the blog has delved into it — the predominant sounds were the synth/horn combinations of technobandas like Banda Machos and Banda Maguey. They were sort of precursors to Chicago duranguense bands, with synths replacing horns and fewer members than a typical Sinaloan brass band. The venerable acoustic Banda El Recodo was respected and toured internationally through the ’90s, but it didn’t have much of a presence as pop music. Now, along with a host of other acoustic bandas, it does, and the technobanda sound has all but disappeared. One of the blog’s ongoing goals has been to learn how the current banda sound — classic acoustic brass bands playing newly written pop tunes — took over the radio.

jimenezAs told by Simonett, this history is complex, so here’s an oversimplification. For much of its early history, banda was largely confined to the state of Sinaloa in northwestern Mexico. (How it got there is a whole other story.) Mexico’s intellectual elite, centered in Mexico City, pushed mariachi as the national music of the people — it was cultivated by radio and the national government, which required mariachi bands play the capital in elegant charro costumes. Mariachi musicians still weren’t rich, but their string-based folk music was considered more noble and sophisticated than that of the bandas, even when the ensembles were playing many of the same songs. The difference? “Sinaloan intellectuals had never considered regional banda music folk music,” writes Simonett. “It was never the focus of interest, never presented as a tourist article, and never used for national political purposes… It evolved in the shadow of the periphery.”

Simonett includes an amazing 1926 article, written just a few years after the revolution, from a newspaper in Sinaloa’s port city of Mazatlán. The article’s author praises Mexican folk music because it jibes with his romantic notion of The People. (“The national soul has not yet died.”) But the guy hates banda. He writes sarcastically of its “hullaballoo”, “It sounds better to the ears standardized by the vibrating vertigo of the locomotives and electric trains and of the machinery of the factories.” Notice how Dylan Goes Electric that argument sounds: loud music that sounds like the city can’t be the authentic voice of the people! Too vulgar! Too commercial! Although I should note, banda was no more “commercial” than mariachi at that point.

Bandas would soon try to change that. Continue reading “Money, Innovation, and Resentment: Helena Simonett’s “Banda: Mexican Musical Life Across Borders””

¡Nuevo! (starring Banda Maguey, Los Intocables, y más)

laberinto horse

los hermanos maderoHere’s the extent of what NorteñoBlog knows about Los Hermanos Madero: They’re a five-piece family norteño band from Culiacán, playing an instantly likable mix of corridos and love songs, and their lineup includes two baby-faced youngsters, Ivan (accordion and high harmonies) and new-ish addition Aldrich (bass). Despite my assignations, they switch off instruments like The Band — one album cover has Ivan holding a bajo sexto, and in this video Aldrich plays the bajo sexto. Sometimes they use a tololoche (stand-up bass) for the bass line, a point of pride. They just released their fourth likably-photoshopped album, Entre Gente De Arranque (Cosalteco/Hyphy). It contains 24 songs and gets a bit samey; more entertaining is this video of Ivan, Aldrich, and the older Jose Luis (I think) previewing the album. Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (starring Banda Maguey, Los Intocables, y más)”

Archivos de 1999

angeles-azules-el-liston-de-tu-pelo_1

These were the top Regional Mexican songs of December 18, 1999, as reported by Billboard. Some things to note:

Los Angeles Azules continue to intrigue.

Several of these bands — El Recodo, Primavera, Los Tigres — released music in 2014. All of them sound pretty much the same today as they did 15 years ago.

The attempt to pinpoint when banda pop became today’s banda pop continues. I’m still looking for a swanky swinging midtempo backbeat ballad with doo-wop chord changes played by an entirely brass band. In the meantime, Recodo’s “Te Ofrezco Un Corazón” could’ve been released yesterday, but it’s more what Billboard would call “mainstream banda,” as in this excerpt from the March 3, 2001 issue:

The group’s somewhat avantgarde approach to music can be attributed to Don Cruz, the man who made vocals a staple of the band and who back in 1985 even dared to use a keyboard (not a banda instrument) on one of the group’s live albums.

A typical El Recodo album mixes genres. Y Llegaste Tu, for example, includes merengues and ballads, but the title track is more mainstream banda (in contrast to “Deja,” which is a ballad, says Moreno).

“We’re a typical banda sinaloense [a band from Sinaloa, Mexico, featuring brass instruments and percussion] that’s evolved,” says Alfonso. “We’ve tried to put on a more modern show and at the same time preserve a sound older followers can identify with. We want to offer a first-rate show that’s very Mexican.”

1. “Te Ofrezco Un Corazón”Banda El Recodo
2. “Te Quiero Mucho” – Los Rieleros Del Norte
3. “El Liston De Tu Pelo” – Los Angeles Azules
4. “No Le Ruegues” – Conjunto Primavera
5. “Con Quien Estarás” – Banda Arkangel R-15
6. “Mi Gusto Es” – Ezequiel Peña
7. “Sonador Eterno” – Intocable
8. “Dos Gotas De Agua” – Banda Maguey
9. “Perdoname” – Pepe Aguilar
10. “Paraiso Terrenal” – Priscila Y Sus Balas De Plata
11. “No Compro Amores” – Banda Machos
12. “Alma Rebelde” – Limite
13. “Eternamente” – Vicente Fernández
14. “Con La Soga Al Cuello” – Los Tigres Del Norte
15. “Basura” – Los Mismos

Archivos de 1998

banda maguey

These were the top Regional Mexican songs of July 25, 1998, as reported by Billboard. Some things to note:

If I ever again start talking about banda and norteño groups using pop chord changes like it’s a recent thing, please shoot me. Maybe just in the leg. I’ll take the hint.

On the other hand (he whispers, writhing in pain), something happened between 1998 and now. Listen to the songs by Graciela Beltrán (#5) and Banda Maguey (#3). Beltrán is straight up pop with mariachi horns; the predominant sounds are guitars strumming and playing dry little MOR licks. (The song’s parent album was arranged by Joan Sebastian (#12), who Allmusic thinks is a woman, but I’ll cut ’em slack because STE’s a better critic than I am.) Banda Maguey’s song has something like a banda horn arrangement chugging alongside synths and a rhythm section. These are first and foremost pop songs, the way we think of pop songs in the U.S.; the ensembles get some of their POP by incorporating elements of traditional Mexican styles.

Today’s banda pop flips the equation: the ensembles are first and foremost acoustic, Cornelio Reyna-style big bands, only instead of playing the traditional ranchera repertoire they play pop songs by new songwriters, using up-to-date lyrical imagery. The commutative property of banda pop tells us we still get banda pop, but the results sound, improbably, more immediate and less dated. Whoever’s responsible for the past decade or so of banda hipness — maybe thank Alfonso Lizárraga, the arranger for Banda El Recodo? (further research) — realized something important. Banda arrangements can contain as many hooks, can deliver pop songs as sparkly and indelible, as rock bands, synths, or turntables and microphones. The Sinaloan brass band is a terrific vehicle for delivering pop tunes, and maybe because it’s so well established, it paradoxically doesn’t sound like it belongs back in some different era. Kind of like a blues-rock quartet.

1. “Desde Que Te Amo” – Los Tucanes De Tijuana
2. “Tu Oportunidad” – Grupo Limite
3. “Quiero Volver” – Banda Maguey
4. “Botella Envenenada” – Los Temerarios
5. “Robame Un Beso” – Graciela Beltrán

6. “Yo Nací Para Amarte” – Alejandro Fernández
This swarthy ballad was #1 on the Hot Latin chart this week, and was therefore written about here by Jonathan Bogart.

7. “Por Mujeres Como Tu” – Pepe Aguilar
8. “Amor Maldito” – Intocable
9. “Eres Mi Droga” – Intocable

10. “Me Haces Falta Tu” – Los Angeles Azules
El Patrón 95.5 still plays this song on a semi-regular basis. I think I’ve heard the antiphony between accordion and trombones, deliberate to the point of creepiness, as part of cumbia mixes or even as interstitial music, coming out of breaks. Once you hear it you don’t forget it.

11. “Sentimientos” – Grupo Limite
12. “Gracias” – Joan Sebastian
13. “A Mi Que Me Quedo” – Los Invasores De Nuevo León
14. “Te Seguire” – Los Palominos

15. “Me Voy A Quitar De En Medio” – Vicente Fernández
Traditional mariachi from a master — listen to the way he slides into the ends of his phrases. The video’s simplicity is startling. Fernández rides his horse to the misión and sits there singing his song while a woman opens the doors. Then he stops singing and rides away, and she closes the doors.

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