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The Culturally Rich Sounds of Regional Mexican Music

Mexico's regional music is reflective of the culturally rich communities it comes from. There are many different genres that comprise regional Mexican music, including, mariachi, norteño, banda, grupero, and more. The sounds were originally influenced by European folk and polka music and have become a blend of indigenous, Spanish, and African sounds. 

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The regional Mexican genre is comprised of multiple subgenres including mariachi, norteño, banda, quebradita, duranguense, grupero, tejano and corridos tumbados, to name a few. Each of these subgenres are also representative of different regions of Mexico.

The different sounds and styles of regional Mexican music is reflective of Mexico’s rich and diverse culture. Influenced by European sounds such as polka and folk music as a result of the fusion of indigenous, Spanish and African musical elements, today’s regional Mexican music carries the genre’s historical roots melded with contemporary sounds.

Such is the case of corridos tumbados, or trap corridos, a new regional Mexican subgenre ushered by chart-topping artist Natanael Cano, who cites the late sierreño singer Ariel Camacho and Anuel AA as the artists who have inspired him throughout his young, yet fruitful, career.

But let’s go way back in time -- to the 1940s to 1960s, to be exact -- when bolero rancheras were the soundtrack to Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema. Lucha Reyes, Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, Javier Solis, José Alfredo Jiménez, Lucha Villa and Chavela Vargas all belted out anthemic songs, often accompanied by a mariachi, such as “Ay Jalisco, No te Rajes,” “México Lindo y Querido,” “Camino de Guanajuato” and “Amorcito Corazón.”

By the early 1970s to the 1980s, we were introduced to a new wave of artists, such as Vicente Fernández and Antonio Aguilar, who carried on the legacy of dramatic mariachi music. Aguilar also recorded tamborazo, similar to banda, that originated in Aguilar's native Zacatecas, Mexico. Juan Gabriel successfully crossed over to pop from regional Mexican, but not without first popularizing the ranchera ballad with classics including "Déjame Vivir" with Rocio Durcal and "Hasta Que Te Conocí."

Then there were the artists who were placing bets on norteño sounds that depended heavily on an accordion, including Ramon Ayala, Los Cadetes de Linares, Carlos y José, Los Invasores de Nuevo León and Los Tigres del Norte. Meanwhile, Joan Sebastian was known for his fusion of Latin pop, ranchera and grupero such as “Veinticinco Rosas.”

In the 1990s, the grupero genre, which incorporated cumbias and ballads, banda and quebradita, became popular in the U.S. and identifiable thanks to its fusion of electric guitars, keyboards and drums. Leaders in the genre include Bronco, Los Bukis, Grupo Límite, Banda Machos, Banda Maguey and Los Tucanes de Tijuana. Intocable and the "Queen of Tejano" Selena were also leading the genre by fusing it with tejano.

Parallel to the rise of grupero, corrido pioneer Chalino Sánchez from Sinaloa was revolutionizing the genre with his corridos, or Mexican folksongs that often depicted real-life events, and narcocorridos, influenced by the narco (drug cartel) culture of Mexico.

Singers Pepe Aguilar and Alejandro Fernández were also making waves with their take on mariachi following in the footsteps of their respective dads.

By the new millennium, it was Banda El Recodo making a splash thanks to their chart-topping banda hits along with artists such as Valentin Elizalde, Lupillo Rivera, Jenni Rivera and La Arrolladora Banda El Limón. In 2004, the duranguense movement was introduced with Grupo Montéz de Durango, K-Paz de la Sierra, Alacranes Musical, Horóscos de Durango and Diana Reyes, who were the leaders of the new genre.

Julión Álvarez, Espinoza Paz, Banda MS, El Komander, La Adictiva Banda, Voz de Mando, Gerardo Ortiz, Roberto Tapia, El Fantasma and Calibre 50, among others, represented a new wave of regional Mexican singing banda, corridos and rancheras.

In the past five years, the regional Mexican genre has seen young artists take it on and make it their own. Late singer Ariel Camacho placed all bets on the traditional sierreño music. Joss Favela, Luis Coronel, Carin León, Virlan García and Chiquis Rivera all work in banda music, with Christian Nodal modernizing the norteño sound. Rising singers and bands including Cano, Eslabon Armado, T3R Elemento, Los Dos Carnales and Junior H are all heavily influenced by sierreño or norteño music, but each have created a distinct version of it.

Below, listen to the 35 songs that tell the story of regional Mexican.

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