Cha Cha Cha - Cinco de Mayo Traditional Music
Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! This is the perfect holiday for enjoying traditional Mexican culture, including food (yummy!) and, of course, music and dance! While this year we won’t be attending huge celebrations or crowded parades, this May 5th may provide a great chance to stay at home and cook homemade tamales and burritos, set a great music playlist, and learn something more about the significance of this date.
In this article, we will briefly explain what the celebration is about, and then move on to the best music genres –and songs- you should definitely listen to!
Why do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo?
On May 5th, 1862, the Mexican army defeated the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla. This was a small force led by General Ignacio Zaragoza that achieved a victory over a larger force. So for Mexican people, it is not just a battle but a symbol of resistance and pride! However, Cinco de Mayo is not, as many may assume, Mexico’s independence day (their most important national holiday). In fact, this date has more importance for Mexican-Americans than for Mexicans in their own country. The celebration began taking place in California one year after the battle, and they have become an annual tradition ever since.
Traditional Mexican music
Music carries along with the spirit of the people who created it. And Mexican music is, by nature, cheerful and enthusiastic! Mexicans love dancing as well as singing and performing, and Cinco de Mayo celebrations are vibrant and joyful. You can usually assist to live performances, where musicians and dancers dress up their traditional clothes and celebrate their Mexican pride.
In Mexico, people listen to all kinds of music (including rock and roll, and they have great bands as well!). But traditional Mexican music is still very popular among people of all ages. Even if the first thing that may come to your mind when you picture Mexican music is a band of Mariachis (and we’ll get to them later), there are many different music genres which include salsa, merengue, cha-cha-cha, rumba, mambo… They all have in common their fast arrangements and strong rhythm that makes dancing contagious!
If you are a music teacher, this holiday brings you the best opportunity to get your students to have a great time and to get them to know a rich culture, their traditions and their rhythms.
Did anyone say “Mariachi”?
Usually, anyone hosting a party for the Cinco de Mayo will hire a Mariachi band. Of course, Mariachi music plays a huge role in this festivity. This music originated in Jalisco, Mexico, and consists of a traditional band of five different instruments. The typical Mariachi band includes a guitarron (a six-string bass guitar played with two strings at once) and a vihuela (a five-string guitar with a humpback). While the first of them provides the base, the second instrument creates harmonics. The melodies of the songs are performed by one or two trumpets and a violin. Finally, a six-string guitar plays rhythms in different patterns.
Mariachi performers usually wear a traditional, colorful uniform called traje de charro which consists of a hat, a neck bow, a jacket and pants, and boots. But what’s most important, besides being talented musicians, is their happy attitude as they play traditional pieces such as “Las Mañanitas” or “Adelita”. That’s what really gets the party going!
Other popular Mexican music genres
Another folk style that is popular in the Southwestern states as well as in Mexico is the Corridos, romantic ballads which became hugely popular during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1924). Their lyrics tell us heroic stories and also political and popular topics. Even modern performers explore the genre through current social concerns of contemporary Mexicans.
Something that holds a deep significance of Mexican national identity is their Baile Folklórico, or Mexican folk dance, which during the Revolution became a symbol of it because Spanish governors forbade it! Mexico has a great dance tradition that brings together Spanish and indigenous heritages. Cinco de Mayo celebration is a great opportunity to dance the Salsa, the Cha Cha Cha, or the Merengue. They are full of joy and hot Latin sensuality too!
What else do you need to party?
Cinco de Mayo parties focus on the music, but food and decoration are important as well. You don’t need to be a chef to learn how to prepare some homemade guacamole and nachos, some chimichangas, deep-fried jalapenos tacos, quesadillas or slow-cooked carnitas. For dessert, you may enjoy a traditional tres leches cake. As for beverages, mojitos, margaritas, and tequilas are a must!
Choose bright colors for the decoration, you can apply papel picado banners, paper cutouts, letter banner, wonderful mantelpieces, and the essential piñata! Everyone will enjoy the party, both grown-ups and kids as well! Speaking of which, if your children are learning to play an instrument, don’t forget to include a little performance of them in front of the guests.
Some songs for your playlist
If you are spending this fiesta at home, you can still embrace the joyful spirit of the celebration and listen to some (or all!) of these well-known Latin American songs that celebrate the Mexican culture. Most of them you’ve probably heard before and no, not all of the mentioned artists are Mexican, by the way. In any case, they’ll get you dancing in no time!
- “La Bamba”, by Ritchie Valens.
- “Oye como va”, by Santana.
- “Mi ranchito”, by Roberto Tapia.
- “El noa noa”, by Juan Gabriel.
- “Oye mi amor”, by Maná.
- “Amor a la mexicana”, by Thalia.
- “Botellita de tequila”, by Pedro Aguilar.
- “Tragos amargos”, by Ramón Ayala.
- “Cielito lindo”, by Divididos.
- “Mambo No. 5”, by Lou Bega.
- “Señorita”, by Justin Timberlake.
- “Suavemente”, by Elvis Crespo.
- “Despacito”, by Luis Fonsi.
So? Are you ready to party? We all in Nabi Music certainly are! Have a wonderful Cinco de Mayo!