An eight-day annual mariachi festival in Jalisco will present performances by 35 groups, workshops and 18 fandangos, but don’t expect to hear renditions of rancheras by José Alfredo Jimenez or Vicente Fernandez played by musicians in silver-studded charro suits.
Instead, the festival is a celebration of older mariachi music and traditions, harking back to a time before ranchera and bolero-singing stars like Javier Solis graced movie screens during Mexico’s golden age of cinema in the 1930s. In earlier times — and to this day in some remote communities — all-string mariachi groups opted for simple white clothing or garments decorated with indigenous patterns. They played sones and jarabes from a large region spanning several states in western Mexico.
This year, a fandango — a public party with mariachis and traditional dancing — will kick off the festivities on August 10 in Guadalajara and many surrounding municipalities, followed on August 11 by a mariachi gala with performances of regional mariachi styles by groups from several states.
In the following days, musicians, academics and enthusiasts will be able to hear a variety of unique performances by groups from all over Mexico and even a few from the United States, as well as participate in music and dance workshops and conferences.
Jalisco Culture Secretary Giovana Jaspersen García said the highlight of the 18th edition of the mariachi gathering will be its many fandangos, which give audiences the unique opportunity to participate in traditions and to publicly honor those who have worked to preserve traditional mariachi forms.
“We have worked hard so that the National Gathering of Traditional Mariachis gets out into the streets and can be heard in public spaces.”
The festival runs until August 17 and all events are free and open to the public.