In all the posts I published in my Monday Music series I've talked about music that I found particular liking to. So today, I would like to focus on the opposite: a kind of music that makes my hair stand on end. Sure, there are lots of genres like that, and each region has their own. Here in Mexico one such musical direction is called Banda.
The Kind of Music That's Played by a Band
So what is Banda, really? As you would guess, the word simply means band in Spanish, which is restricted to a certain type of band: brass and wood wind instruments with lots of percussion. If you are thinking of polka right now, you are actually closer than you think. After all, according to Mexican lore it was the second emperor Maximiliano who brought this style with him from Europe in the 1860's. And coming from the Habsburg family, the Alpine influence can't be ignored.
The truth is, that it was not just Emperor Max who was so fond of the sound of tubas and trumpets. At that time there was a great influx of German immigrants to Mexico, who brought their music with them. Still today banda's resemblance to German folk music is uncanny, even though both styles had evolved quite a bit since they split.
Banda for the Nacos
As I mentioned in my first paragraph, banda is by no means my favorite style. Sure, like most things that you're exposed to unwittingly it has grown on me a bit. Still, I would never put on banda just to listen to it. It's enough if one of my neighbors plays it full blast, just to ruin a perfectly quiet morning.
I guess each place has its equivalent in this regard. Often it's not the music's fault that it happens to fall into the culture of the listener, who in turn tends to be from a rural place, lack general interest or even regard in the outside world, but be more proud of these things than they deserve. The term used for this subculture in Mexico is naco, that is without an 'r'. Narco on the other hand implies that they are part of an organized crime group, which they may be independently from being a bumpkin.
The Rising Popularity of Banda
Since we're talking about traditional music, enjoyed by country people, it may come as a surprise that throughout the 20th century banda has been of comparatively little importance, regionally confined to the State of Sinaloa. It was only towards the 90's that it started getting popular in other regions, including the United States and Central America.
Though a banda group would play anything from military marches to salsa music, the typical, and most popular musical styles are Norteña, Durangense, and Corridos. Especially the latter style, featuring epic tales of love, betrayal, as well as the typical situation from the Mexican border, including illegal immigration and drug smuggling, is often referred to as Narcorridos. Of course such a music has to be popular among young guys from the country dreaming about being gang-bangers.
The other reason behind the popularity of banda is the fact that it has been pushed with insane amounts of money being pumped into it by US based recording studios, made big and powerful by their owners who use it as a convenient way to launder money. Which once again brings us back to the narcos...
The Changing Style of Banda
As all things go, the more popular banda music got, the more it started to change. Of course, you couldn't ignore the obvious effects of its young audience. So while the genre looks back soberly on a rich tradition, its most modern interpretation is less conservative, more flexible, and in a way cooler, more modern.
Take Christian Nodal for example. In the video of his song Se Me Olvidó he seems like a typical guy from the sticks who's even making fun of it a little. At the same time nobody minds his tattoos, or his generally urban demeanor.
In spite of all its incarnations, banda music still hasn't quite captured my heart... yet! I guess I still need to hear the right songs in the right moments, have my nostalgia built up a bit, and then I might be happy to blast it at top volume to share a perfect morning with my neighbors... or maybe not.
Take a Look at the Previous Posts in my Monday Music Series:
The Sound of the Hungarian Zither
Obligatory Line-Dance at Mexican Parties - El Payaso del Rodeo
Floating Into the Night by Julee Cruise
Classic Canadiana - Stan Rogers
Party Like There's No Tomorrow, Cry Like Everything Is Lost - Hungarian Gypsy Music
The Harder Sound of the Middle Ages - Corvus Corax
The First Hip-Hop I Actually Liked - Things Fall Apart by The Roots
No Prophets in Their Own Land - Rodrigo y Gabriela
Beyond the Boundries of Styles and Genres - King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Accordion-Rock You May Not Know (But Really Should) - Los Tabascos
Songs of the Mexican Revolution - La Adelita
Memorable Weirdness - What Do You Want A Japanese To Do Again?
Gloomy Sunday - The Hungarian Suicide Song
Party Tunes from the Wild East - The "Russendisko" Experience
Folk Songs from Your Home Village - Hungarian Regional Sound Archives
Polynesian Salt Water Music
Images Conjured up by Tom Waits' Music
In Country: Folks Songs of Americans in the Vietnam War
Somebody Tell Me - Translating a Hungarian Song Into [EN] and [SP]
Somebody Tell Me - first trial & live performance [HU] [SP] [EN]
Horst Wessel in Mexico
Playing for Change - Old Favorites Played Around the World
Soothing Tunes and Gentle Rhythms of Mali Music
What Is It About Music? [Ecotrain's Question of the Week]
Halász Judit, Memories from my Childhood