Thursday, April 07, 2011

"So, when did you fall in love with Mexican music?"

My headline is a play on a line from the movie Brown Sugar. The main female character Sydney always starts her interviews with, "So, when did you fall in love with hip-hop?" The movie features several real-life hip hop stars telling their story and I thought that was a really good touch. But my question is about a different kind of music genre.

Jose Alfredo Jimenez, from Wikipedia

I want to ask a similar question. "So, when did you fall in love with Mexican music?" If you were born into a first generation Mexican family it was probably early on, as soon as you could talk and understand what you were hearing at family parties.

Now, notice something. I am not asking you when did you fall in love with Spanish music or any other specific Spanish music genre. I am referring specifically to Mexican music, the old classics, the mariachi music, the boracho music of our fathers. Well, not my father specifically, but our ancestors.

You see, when I was a little girl my father didn't seem to appreciate Mexican music. I knew that when our neighbors got to drinking  and listening to music they would be there late into the night singing. They seemed to be having a good time but my father's reaction made me think that it was wrong and indecent. He would walk around with a frown and would peek out the window at them, while all the while making comments. My father was very religious and very conservative and he didn't find any kind of drinking and singing late at night acceptable behavior. (Now I realize they were just having a great time.)

But then I also heard my parents talk about the great Mexican songwriters. Like the Tres Gallos Mexicanos, or 'Three Mexican Roosters' - Jorge Negrete, Javier Solis and Pedro Infante. They also told me about Jose Alfredo Jimenez, one of the greatest Mexican writers in history, and Agustin Lara. I learned that Mexico had some wonderful song writers and I loved to listen to my mother play Javier Solis songs. That's when I can say I first started to fall in love with Mexican music. The funny this is that I didn't make the connection from that music to the music that I heard our neighbors singing.

Fast forward twenty years to my marriage. My husband was raised completely different. For one, his parents are young enough to be my parents' children so they are more liberal, starting with their age.  (Baby Boomer mom) Of course my parents were much much older, but because of that my father was more conservative.

My husband's parents listen to and enjoy all the old Mexican classic music. We often listen to it when we get together at our house. It wasn't until then that I really started to listen to the words of these songs and that I realized how beautiful the lyrics are. True poetry.

Here are some of the words from "Ella" by Jose Alfredo Jimenez.

Me canse de rogarle me canse de decirle, (I got tired of begging her and telling her...)

que yo sin ella de pena muero, (that I would die of grief without her)

ya no quiso escucharme si sus labios se abrieron, (she didn't want to listen to me and when her lips opened)

fue pa' decirme ya no te quiero. (it was only to tell me, "I don't love you anymore)

And that's when I truly fell in love with Mexican music.

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