Music of Mexico

Mexican music was popularized internationally in the late 1970s as part of a revival of mariachi music in the United States; this was led by U.S. performers like Linda Ronstadt.

The earliest known appearance of mariachi in reference to music is from 1852. By the turn of the century, mariachi was popular across Mexico. Rural subgenres have largely died out, and urban mariachi from Mexico City has dominated the field since the 1930s. It became known as the national music of Mexico after the 1910 Mexican Revolution, and was subsidized during the term of Lázaro Cárdenas. Cornets were added to mariachi in the 1920s; they were replaced by trumpets ten years later. Mexican immigrants in the US made Los Angeles the mariachi capital of the USA by 1961.

Mexican immigrant communities in the United States have a distinctive music scene which has also spread south to Mexico itself. Tex-Mex and Tejano music, as they are known, arose in the 1930s and 40s.

Southern Mexican folk music is centered around the marimba, which remains popular in Chiapas and Oaxaca. In Yucatán the traditional Jarana music and dance is popular. In the north of Mexico corridos, a Spanish-derived ballad, are popular.

Mexican son

In the 1940s, Mexican music began its rise to international fame, just as Cuban music was topping charts across the globe. Since then, Mexico has absorbed influences from across Latin America, most especially include Colombian cumbia, which is now as much or more known as a Mexican trend than a Colombian one.

Mexican pop music derives from a mixture of Spanish, African and Aztec or other indigenous sources. Related to Cuban son montuno and Venezuelan joropo, Mexican son arose in the 18th century. It is similar to, but historically and characteristically distinct from, Cuban son montuno, despite the similarity in nomenclature. Nine or ten styles of Mexican son have been popular, including mariachi. Mexican son has been rural for most of its history, and requires audience participation for zapateado, or foot-staping done in a counter-rhythm. Most bands use string instruments and improvised lyrics.

Jaliscenses and mariachi

Jalisco's folk music (jaliscienses) is the source of the internationally-revered mariachi genre, after it was popularized by Mexican cinema.

Mariachi bands became common in Jalisco around the beginning of the 20th century, originally playing at weddings. It is said that General Porfirio Díaz, in 1907, ordered a mariachi band to play for the United States Secretary of State, only if they wore charro suits, which were worn by the poor musicians' bosses. This is the source of traditional dress for mariachi bands, and is considered the beginning of modern mariachi.

The golden age of mariachi was in the 1950s, when the ranchera style was common in American movies. Mariachi Vargas played for many of these soundtracks, and the long-lived band's long career and popular acclaim has made it one of the best-known mariachi bands.


Jarochos music comes from the Veracruz area, and is distinguished by a strong African influence. International acclaim has been limited, including the major hit "La Bamba". The most legendary performer is Graciana Silva, whose Discos Corason releases made inroads in Europe. Southern Veracruz is home to a distinct style of Jarochos that is characteristically lacking a harp is played exclusively by requinto or jarana guitars, and is exemplified by the popular modern band Mono Blanco.


Sierra Gorda's villages are home to trovadores who play arribeño music. Known for lyrical innovation, the genre is competitive in nature, and is accompanied by guitars and violins. Guillermo Velázquez is the best-known exponent of arribeño.


Melodically complex violin music from the Balsas River Basin of Western Mexico. Juan Reynoso is especially popular, and has won the National Prize for Arts and Sciences.

Arpa grande

Sones de arpa grande developed in an arid, hot area of western Mexico. It is dominated by a harp, accompanied by violins and guitars. Originally confined to poor rural areas and urban brothels, sones de arpa grande is now popular among the suburban and urban middle- and upper-class audiences. Juan Pérez Morfín and Beto Pineda are the most well-known performers.

Abajeños and istmeños

Indigenous communities have produced their own variants of Mexican son, which is otherwise a primarily mestizo genre. The Purépecha (from Michoacãn) are known for the sones abajeños, which are often played alongside pirekaus, a form of native love song. Famous bands include Atardecer and Erandi.

The Zapotecs of Oaxaca have produced some extremely famous love songs, and the people's sones istmeños, which are sung in both Zapotec and Spanish. The music has been popularized, primarily by pop stars from outside the area, including Lila Downs.

Son huasteco

Son huasteco music, a style developed by Mexico's Huastec people, is a genre which has been gaining in popularity in recent years. Two guitarists sing in a falsetto with accompaniment by a violin. Improvisation is common. Los Camperos de Valle and Trio Tamazunchale are especially influential performers.

Ranchera and pop music

The first major international trend from Mexico was the popularization of ranchera, which had developed early in the 20th century out of mariachi, and became popular after being used in several American films. Divas like Lucha Reyes established a tradition of major female stars, which only changed near the end of the century, when male stars like Alejandro Fernãndez and Juan Gabriel.

Norteño music (known as Tex-Mex in the United States) is an outgrowth of corridos which told tales of the Mexican War. In the late 1920s, the corridos entered a golden age when Mexicans on both sides of the border recorded in San Antonio, Texas-area hotels, revolutionizing the genre alongside Mexico's political revolution. By the time the golden age ended, Narciso Martínez and Santiago Jimenez had introduced the accordion, which had been introduced by Bohemian miners who immigrated to the country in the late 19th century. Alongside the accordion came the polka, which, alongside waltzes, chotis and mazurka, mixed with corridos to form modern norteño in the early 1950s. Later in the century, bands like Los Tigres del Norte and Los Cadetes del Norte added influences from cumbia, rock music and other influences to great popular acclaim.

By the early 1990s, norteño music had evolved into banda by adding elements imported from brass bands. This style was popularized by Banda del Recodo and other major stars.

The 1980s saw Colombian cumbia become even more popular in Mexico than its native land, and it was by far the dominant genre throughout the decade, before banda overtook it in the 1990s. Mexican cumbia bands like Los Bukis topped the charts, and helped inspire grupera bands at the end of the decade. These included Yonics, Bronco and Banda Machos. The same period saw a relaxation of regulations that restriced importation of foreign music. The result was the appearance of Mexican rock bands like Los Caifanes, Café Tacuba, Maná, and Maldita Vecindad.


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