February 24, 2004
Masters of Mexican Music To Perform at Library of Congress on April 1
The American Folklife Center will present the national tour "Masters of Mexican Music" on April 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.
The performance will celebrate the rich musical traditions of four distinct regions of Mexico - the mariachi of Jalisco, the brilliantly syncopated harp-led son jarocho of southern Vera Cruz, the lively accordion-based conjunto of the Texas-Mexican border and the melodic marimba from the southern state of Chiapas. Tickets, available from Ticketmaster, are required for this free event; all seats are unreserved.
Masters of Mexican Music is produced by the National Council for the Traditional Arts and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation.
The tour brings together 21 musicians and dancers, most of whom now make their home in the United States. All were either born in the regions of the musical traditions that they present or learned from a family member who is a native of that region. Three of the featured musicians are recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor the nation bestows upon traditional artists.
Heritage Fellow Natividad Cano directs Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, one of the most acclaimed mariachi ensembles in the world. A native of Ahuisculo, a small town near Guadalajara in the Mexican state of Jalisco, Cano came to Los Angeles in 1960, and seven years later opened La Fonda restaurant, still the group’s home base and a center of Mexican culture in the city. Cano’s work with Linda Rondstadt brought the group national recognition and an international touring schedule.
Renowned jarocho musician Jose Gutierrez, born and raised on a ranch in southern Vera Cruz, takes the part of pregonero, or lead singer, in this lively blend of African and Spanish musical forms. Jarocho music, much of it syncopated, combines instrumental music with improvised and fixed oral poetry, mostly in call-and-response patterns. The instrumentation is unique: a large diatonic harp (arpa), a small, eight-stringed guitar (jarana) and a four-stringed guitar (requinto). Gutierrez, a virtuoso performer and maker of all three instruments, is a 1989 National Heritage Fellow.
Conjunto music originated in the late 19th century when European immigrants introduced the accordion into Mexican working-class communities along the Texas-Mexican border. It is the dominant dance music of Mexican Americans today. Accordionist and singer Domingo "Mingo" Saldivar, whose career spans more than four decades, is considered not only a pioneer but also a legend in conjunto music. His blend of tejano sounds and popular country music has gained him a wide audience, while his animated performances have earned him the title "The Dancing Cowboy." Saldivar has been inducted into the Conjunto Music Hall of Fame, has two Grammy nominations and was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship in 2002.
Texan Lorenzo Cruz, originally from the state of Chiapas, leads Marimba Chiapas, a three-person ensemble that features the complex and syncopated music of the classic marimba, which is a favorite sound throughout Mexico. The marimba was brought to the new world from Africa and was first heard in Mexico during colonial times. Older forms of the instrument are derived from African xylophones and have gourd resonators with buzzing membranes.
Traditional Mexican dance will be featured with the mariachi and Vera Cruz ensembles.
The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in the Library in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.
All Library of Congress concerts and other public programs are presented free of charge to the public, but may require tickets for admission. Tickets are distributed by Ticketmaster at (301) 808-6900, (410) 752-1200 or, for out-of-state residents, (800) 551-7328. Each ticket carries a service charge of $2.75, with additional charges for phone orders and handling. Tickets are also available at Ticketmaster outlets and online at www.ticketmaster.com. Although the supply of tickets may be exhausted, there are often empty seats at concert time. Interested patrons are encouraged to come to the Library by 6:30 p.m. on concert nights to obtain no-show tickets.
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