Sonidos y Mas

Sonidos Y Mas: Mariachi Real de San Diego's Mariachi Classics

Mariachi music has been present in American culture as long as I can remember - I recall watching old Hollywood films set in Mexico or Southern California, where the inevitable trio would come out for a song or two. As a result, tunes like "Sabor Ami," "Solamente Una Vez" and "El Mariachi" became permanently ingrained in my memory, even if back then I only had a vague idea of what they were about.

In northern Mexico, Mariachi music is part of everyday life, played at christenings, weddings, masses and even funerals. For Mexican expatriates, it's a connection to their childhoods and the life they left behind. Today, many once-beloved tunes have been dropped by more contemporary Mariachi groups, who apparently prefer to work with newer material (which is quite plentiful).

Because of that, various melodies were almost becoming forgotten, until California-based Mariachi Real de San Diego came along to change that. The group's mission is not to let those oldies go away, and the members have done intensive research to make sure that doesn't happen.

Trailer for 1946's Anchors Aweigh

Band founder Pedro Gonzales took the responsibility of bringing these songs back to the spotlight. Along with his son Mauricio (who is also part of the ensemble), he visited old record stores in Tijuana and reached out to collectors in California and Texas who helped him unearth obscure gems - some of which hadn't been heard in over two decades.

The result of their research is on this disc, which was recorded with few modern resources. You can hear background conversation as the band kick-starts "Las Mañanitas," a song commonly played at birthday parties. Gonzales fills "La Malagueña" with emotion while demonstrating great vocal range - the backing group, formed by various veterans from the scene, sounds very tight - which is especially noticeable in instrumental tunes like "San Diego" and "Las Chiapanecas."

Mariachi Real de San Diego at a Chargers Game

In addition to those "lost" tunes, there are several classics that complete the collection, including a touching version of "Solamente Una Vez," "Quiereme Mucho" and of course "Mexico Lindo Y Querido," a tune that was a hit for the great Mariachi singer Vicente Fernandez. Whether a novice to the genre or a longtime fan, Mariachi Classics is certain to bring a smile to your face.

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Ernest Barteldes