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  • Olivia Stalker

Then & Now: Mexican music

Since its prehistoric origin music has always been a channel to tell a story. Harmonies, tempos, beats, and lyrics perfectly intertwine to create an intricate tapestry, which as a whole has the ability to ignite the emotions of the listener. Mexican music is a prime example of a cultural staple that reflects the history and sensibilities of its people. When working on one of our spring/summer trend reports, which is heavily influenced by the traditions and vibrancy of Mexico, we found ourselves intrigued by the music that is such a vital part of its identity.

Mexicali moodboard Fashion trend spring summer 2018

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For hundreds of years Mexican music has been used in both times of struggle and of triumph, whether it's to communicate a misfortunate time in history or to celebrate a prosperous moment. These songs and performances are a deep and rich expression of culture, and draw the attention of an international audience. Today designers, creatives, and artists from all over the world seeking such passion in their work often find Latin culture to be a source of inspiration. On runways, city streets, and at music festivals, one can observe the influence of motifs, colors, flavors, and sounds from Mexico and in fact, from all over Latin America. The vibrant colors and motif-rich heritage are visually compelling for any designer, and listening to some of the music by Mexican artists and international musicians influenced by them is equally an enriching experience.

Below you can explore some of our the new prints inspired by Mexican culture.

by row from top left:

Fans | Skulls & Roses | Mexican Folk Ditsy | Marigold | Lace & Roses | Fiesta Pinwheel | Festival Banner | Flowering Vines | Tropical Petals


Traditional Mexican Music:

Mariachi bands have been around for centuries and still have the ability to unite listeners to celebrate Mexican culture. In the Mexican community music is the glue that binds all the various ethnicities and backgrounds that together create their strong and rich latino culture. With no direct founders or "fathers" of Mariachi, it has always been the music of the country people. Many of the lyrics sung in these elaborate performances combining various instruments, dances, costumes, and dialog are inspired by the daily life of the Mexican people. The iconic traditional costumes and unique musical expressions of the Mariachi are able to open the world's eyes to the pride and love Mexico's people have for their country.

Traditional Mariachi Band

Ranchera is another type of traditional Mexican music which seeks inspiration from love, patriotism, and nature. Like Mariachi, Ranchera has humble roots, originating on the ranches found in rural Mexico. Created in correspondence to the Mexican Revolution, in retaliation to the aristocratic tastes which were developing in that time, Ranchera lyrics often contain strong meaning and social importance. Ranchera quickly became the music of the people, performed with an exuberant level of passion, in attempt to deliver a political or social message through music, an internationally understood language.

Young boys learning the tradition of Ranchera

With stirring music and meaningful lyrics, the history of a country can be understood and passed on through musical expression. When Mexico was invaded by Spain, the following two hundred years under Spanish rule resulted in a unique shift in the direction of Mexican music. European invaders attempted to change Mexican culture, but music aided in its partial preservation, while at the same time incorporating some of the new tempos, instruments and sensibilities of traditional Spanish music. As African slaves were imported to Mexico, they introduced yet another cultural influence which had an effect on Mexican folk music as we know today. Although conquistadors and missionaries had tried their best to wipe out traditions established from the times of the Mayans, Olmecs, and Aztecs, music allowed their important stories and traditions to be passed down and not completely forgotten. Music contained the truth of the people, expressed hope, and embodied an entire culture.

In modern times, Mexico's appreciation for the power and beauty of music has not waned. It still recognizes music as an art form, a method of communication, and a powerful means of preservation. With its ability to provoke certain emotions, music has been a platform for the Mexican people to tell their story, raise awareness, or provoke change. Today Latin music is still being used for this very reason; Mexican bands are rallying together to raise their voices in protest. Music festivals are becoming the stage on which Mexicans can broadcast a strong opinion on important matters to an international audience in hopes to ignite change.


Mexican Music Today:

The energy embodied in Mexican music is undeniable, all chords are sung with such passion, moves are danced with utmost exuberance, and instruments played with precision. The songs are written to vocalize the rich culture which lies at the roots of all of this pride. That is why the Mexican community is persistent in not only keeping the tradition alive, but also appreciated. Moreover, this is an art form that continues to grow and mutate while still maintaining ties to the past. Young musicians are studying the old masters and picking up the baton; new bands are being strongly influenced by old ways and bring Mexican music to the new generation and keeping it vital.

Mariachi el Bronx - in 2012

Music festivals like Coachella, a music festival held annually in its namesake town in California, and SxSW, held in Austin,TX, have grabbed the attention of the world. Known for not only the music performed but also the fashions worn, these festivals are very important style, and cultural influencers With some exceptions, these festivals worldwide have lacked in Mexican cultural appreciation in previous years. Particularly disappointing for Coachella since the town has a 96% Latino population. BUT this is changing...

This year SxSW presented a Resist Festival consisting of all Latino acts in direct response to some of the negative discourse and actions that we have seen in the US in the past year. These acts performed music which combined traditional mariachi beats with lyrics embodying strong political messages. In a time when American political figures are focusing on building a wall to separate Mexico from the United States, Mexican music has been used as a vital tool to spark a protest in attempt of a political and social reform. The ethnicities being marginalized in recent political debate are able to use music to create a sense of solidarity.

Este Vato - at SxSW

The Latino community's loyalty to preserving traditions and persistence in its desire to perform Mexican music on a global stage has proven successful with this past music festival. The 2017 Coachella music festival hosted the most Latino performances in the festival's history. This year's festival had the special aim to bring together and celebrate all different types of cultures, in a time when it is often difficult to do so. The Latino bands in attendance performed with more passion and purpose than most bands in the festival's entirety.


Influence on Fashion

Music festivals have almost created their own category within fashion. Not only was Mexican culture prominent on the stage, but also in the dress of the attendees, many of whom sported Mexican inspired designs and prints. The looks you will find on these festival lawns push boundaries and aim to be something unique. With a luxe boho aesthetic, adventurous hipsters heading to these festivals take what they will be wearing pretty seriously and the fashion world takes note. The festivals are even more crowded with celebrity insiders, fashion bloggers, and designers seeking inspiration than musicians or possibly even adoring fans. This year the Mexican leaning of festival dress was undeniable. Ruffles were abundant, Aztec prints were everywhere, and bolero jackets and sombreros were even being worn by these trend setters. Along with stacked silver jewelry and heavily embroidered accessories adding an extra splash to the ensembles, the Latino vibe was palpable.

The strong influence of the Mexican trend has been evident not only on festival lawns, but also on high fashion runways. Designers were inspired by the motif-rich aesthetic, vibrant colors, and heavy embellishment associated with Mexican dress. High fashion models walked the runway in modern bolero jackets, heavy embroidery, and excessive amounts of ruffles and beautiful rose motifs this past season.

Scroll through the gallery below to see some Mexican inspired patterns being worn on the Coachella lawn and on fashion runways.

Do you have any favorite Latino bands that you would recommend?

Were you lucky enough to attend the Latin festival at SxSW?

We would love to hear your recommendations or experiences of this genre of music, so drop us a line below!

Sources: NPR | Hacienda Tres Rios | Wikipedia | SxSW | LAtimes | Vogue

* We intend no copyright infringement by displaying images from other sources on our site. Unless otherwise noted, all images are the property of their respective owners.

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