Monday, May 3, 2010

Cinco de Mayo - celebrate with music!

Photo of a woman in a long Mexican skirt dancingThough not the official national day of Mexico (which is September 16), May 5th, or "Cinco de Mayo" (pronounced Sink-o day My-o) is a day for Mexican-Americans and Mexicans to celebrate their cultural heritage. People mark the day with celebrations with parties and cultural events. The date has become so popular that you no longer need to be Mexican to take part. Like St. Patrick's Day and Oktoberfest, everyone can be Mexican on May 5th.

The most popular Mexican-American/Mexican music style for celebrations is Mariachi (pronounced Marr - ee - ah - chee). In this genre, performers in oversized hats and matching costumes entertain with love songs and sometimes other topics. The groups use only acoustic instruments, including violins, trumpets, guitars, a large guitar with a deep sound (bajo sexto) and sometimes other instruments, such as the folk harp or accordian.

Photo of Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles dressed in pink mariachi costumes and holding instrumentsBands can have as few as four members but some have over twenty. Traditionally, mariachi groups have been all-male, but women are increasingly active, either in mixed-sex groups or all-women ensembles such as the Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles (left).

The mariachi band is often the highlight of weddings and quinceñeras (birthday party for a 15-year-old girl) but can be called on for every type of celebration. And of course, they often perform in Mexican restaurants.

The Music Collection has mariachi music that you can check out for your Cinco de Mayo party.

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