June 3, 2008

Cover art for Amor, Dolor y Lágrimas: Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, released on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

On May 20, 2008, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released Amor, Dolor y Lágrimas: Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, a collection of música ranchera songs performed and arranged by the California-based ensemble Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano.  Amor, Dolor y Lágrimas: Música Ranchera (Love, Hurt and Tears) reflects the rich rural tradition at the core of música ranchera (country music), one of Mexico’s most beloved musical traditions.

Música ranchera (ranch music) describes a variety of song styles that form the heart of the traditional Mexican music, and reflect the social and political movements that influenced its sound.  During the post-Revolution era from 1910 to 1917, the social and cultural climate in Mexico had a distinctly nationalistic focus.  Enticed to city life by employment opportunities and urban attractions, many Mexicans moved to Mexico City and other regional capitals, creating a significant social transformation.  The canción mexicana, spirited música ranchera songs that portrayed everyday and rural themes and had a strong nationalistic message, appealed to the uprooted people flocking to the cities in search of work.  Urban theaters also sponsored canción mexicana song contests and variety shows that featured Mexican singers and songs.  By the end of the 1920s, música ranchera was poised to fill the growing cultural and social need for a national body of music.

The mariachi ensemble was also part of the urban migration and transformed both Mexico and música ranchera, but it gained widespread popularity later, in the 1930s, primarily due to the influence of radio programs and film.  The 1932 film Santa, the first Mexican movie with sound, featured a mariachi.  In 1936, the wildly successful film Allá en el Rancho Grande served as the model for hundreds of subsequent movies portraying country scenes, rural stereotypes, grassroots humor, and lots of professionally crafted songs in a pseudo-rural vein.  These films, labeled comedias rancheros (country comedies), were the single most important social force in the creation of modern mariachi and the música ranchera genre.  By the early 1950s, the mariachi symbolized Mexican national heritage, and música ranchera was the most popular music of Mexican origin.

The GRAMMY-winning Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, under the direction of Jesús “Chuy” Guzman, brings an authentic voice to the tradition and history of the música ranchera and mariachi music.  Mariachi Los Camperos was founded in Los Angeles in 1961 by Nati Cano.  Nati Cano was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1990 and is an emeritus member of ACTA’s founding board of directors.

To purchase Amor, Dolor y Lágrimas, please visit Smithsonian Folkways Recordings’ website.