Unique Mexican music; Son Jarocho, folklore and more

There’s a lot of interesting and unique music in Mexico, both modern and traditional, but there’s one kind that I find particularly unique and beautiful that I think it’s extremely underrated in Mexico, let alone in the world; Son Jarocho.

This first video is from Cafe Tacuba, IMO the best band from Mexico, although I’m not sure what kind of style it is, it’s certainly awesome 🙂 (I couldn’t find a better video quality)

The rest of the videos are of what I consider Son Jarocho in the right setting; small room, 3 guys; jarana jarocha (small guitar), requinto jarocho (even smaller guitar), and more importantly; arpa jarocha (a special harp). It’s a mixture of different styles from different continents, and the lyrics are often funny and sometimes improvised to make fun of something, or somebody. BTW, jarocho means from Veracruz, one of the 31 states of Mexico.

La Bamba is the most famous one, but I couldn’t find one video worthy of highlighting, so I just put the best one I could find. And before you ask, yes, the high pitch and loud voices in the chorus are intended, also, wait for the solos 😉

This is what you most likely would expericence; a group wandering around restaurants, improvising and making jokes.

This one seems professionally recorded. Just for measure.

For more more about Mexican music and culture, check this previous post.

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Announcing codeswarm.rb 0.1

codeswarm.rb is a rewrite of Michael Ogawa’s code_swarm in ruby using cairo.

For an example see:

The format of the events xml file is compatible with code_swarm’s one,
and the physics engine is basically the same.

The code is less than 500 lines of code, so it should be fairly hackable.

The code is there:
http://github.com/felipec/codeswarm.rb

And here is a picture (youtube is too blurry):
screenshot-codeswarmrb

Get to know a little bit more about Mexican culture

Until a few years I have lived all my life in Mexico, then about one year in USA and now six months in Finland. After these experiences I have the felling that most people don’t really know much about it, some almost nothing.

Today is Mexico’s independence day, so I figured it would be a good idea to write about my country.

I guess the stereotype of Mexican people is that we like tequila, dance a salsa, we are lazy and our best beer is Corona.

Most people get surprised by this one: Corona is far from being the best beer, they just did good marketing. To my understanding it is one of the cheapest and it’s popular in “beach cities” or small towns, but otherwise it’s just another beer, and definitively not the best. My friends would buy Indio, Sol, Tecate Light, XX Lager, Heineken, Casta, anything but Corona.

For a complete list of international ratings you can check FEMSA list, Grupo Modelo list and there’s more

Now, Mexico is drastically different from one place to another. We have deserts, amazing beaches, forests and jungles. Huge cities, towns and indigenous communities. Filthy rich people (like Carlos Slim, the richest person in the world) and very poor. It’s really difficult to say that Mexico is some way, because it really depends a lot.

What is worst. We Mexicans don’t know each other so well. It’s not unusual to leave a Mexican wondering about some fact of the country. There are 31 states, and each state is totally different.

So if you think Mexican drink tequila you should think again. Some Mexicans call themselves “tequilero” (they like it), some are more beer people, and some like other liquors. In my city (Monterrey) we mostly drink beer and tequila just in special occasions or mixed with something else.

The same goes for dancing Salsa. A lot of people from “beach cities” dance it, but it’s not so popular anywhere else. Each zone has its own distinct type of dancing. There’s Cumbia Tejana, Cumbia Norteña, Quebradita, Pacito Duranguense, Banda, etc.

The one that I find most amusing is that we are lazy. In some way that’s true; we like to take shortcuts. We like to think about ourselves as “creative” people that often do things the “wrong” way. Some classic example is to quickly “fix” a car’s broken front light with some plastic and scotch tape, sometimes for the lack of money, but other times it’s for the lack of time. We don’t spend so much time finding the proper solution. That has advantages and drawbacks but that’s how we are.

We usually work more than 8 hours a day, a lot of people work on Saturdays and even Sundays, the concept of extra time is almost inexistent, we don’t get any vacation days on the first year of work, and after that is about 10 days per year.

On the contrary, we are very hard-working people, and specially the people on the north.

Something that most people fail to see is our sense of humour. We make fun about everything all the time, but usually in a way of puns which heavily rely on our own Mexican variant of Spanish.

Language and humor are intensely correlated. For example: a very common word is chingada (fuck/screw), which comes from La Malinche the mistress of Hernan Cortes which is considered a traitor who screwed us. Nowadays most Mexicans don’t know where “chingada” comes from, it probably started as a joke which eventually made into the common language, and now it’s still used as a word that can be used almost anywhere and makes the comment more funny.

There’s also albur. Which I don’t want to try to explain, but it’s some very specific kind of pun joke which is persistent in the whole country and even among different social classes.

We even make fun about the death. We have a special Day of the Dead in which we remember our lost beloved ones and think about them as if they came back this day to live with the living. The tradition says that we should put some altar with offerings; things they liked in life. In some towns they even make parties. Also some people write “calaveras” (skulls), which are mocking epitaphs for friends (living friends), as a story about how the death takes them away, with rhymes and puns, but most importantly something quintessential about the person.

Almost everything is allowed: death, corruption, racism, sexism, wifes, sisters, even Mexican people… but not mothers, that’s really touchy.

It’s not a big surprise that Mexican humor is not very well known: it’s too local, and maybe offensive. But lately there have been a few Mexican comedians that have been able to succeed in USA, and they are quite good: George Lopez, Pablo Francisco and Paul Rodriguez.

Funny enough the Mexican-American comedians almost unknown in Mexico.

The food? There’s no Mexican food outside of Mexico. What is supposed to be “Mexican cousine” is actually Tex-Mex at best. Nachos and Fajitas are purely Tex-Mex; Fajitas are almost unknown in Mexico.

Typical examples of Mexican cuisine include: pozole, tamales, carnitas and mole. If there isn’t any typical drink as horchata, jamaica or tamarindo then it’s probably not Mexican cuisine.

Tortillas must be warm, that’s why they are kept inside “tortilleros” (tortilla warmers), and food is usually served without tortillas so when you are ready to use one you take it out of the tortillero. Typical tortillas are about 15 cm.

Again, the typical food varies drastically from region to region. For a list of more Mexican food check here.

And finally there’s music. Again, a lot of different kinds:

Café Tacuba – Ojalá que llueva Café

El Gran Silencio – Cumbia Lunera (live from Japan)

Celso Piña – Cumbia sobre el Rio

Kinky – Coqueta (with cowbell!)

(I’m listing examples of the ones I like that I think are typical but there are many many more).

Our race and our culture is metiza; a mixture from European and indigenous which is very rich and diverse. Drastically different from one place to another is a living example that different cultures can live together peacefully. It’s far from being a paradise; there are huge problems as corruption, poverty and ignorance, but Mexican people are positive, and although slowly, there’s improvement.