Earlier this month, Rocks Off contributor and all-around nice guy Jeff Balke enlightened us with this little list of songs that are standard operating procedure at weddings. But as much as I love "Twist & Shout" and "YMCA," in my very Mexican experience, those songs were not what I was used to hearing when one of my hundred or so cousins got married.
DJs at Mexican weddings certainly have their own arsenal of go-to canciones to pack the dance floor, from huapangos to cumbias, rancheras y más. As my primo Gustavo Arellano so eloquently writes, "...while Southern California is chockablock with banda sinaloense, Chalino Sanchez wannabes, rancheras, sierreño, sonidero, and conjunto norteño (and the mashing of them all), the Texas airwaves play a different style... grupero, tribal, and northern Mexico-style cumbias rule."
So in that respect, the songs on this list may not sync up exactly with Mexican wedding songs in Califas, or in Chicago or New York City for that matter, but if you are ever invited to a wedding here in Houston or anywhere in South Texas, I bet this list accurately reflects the experience.
So put on your pointy boots and listen up to the following:
10. "La Vivora De La Mar"
This is something like the Mexican "Chicken Dance." Basically, the bride and groom stand on chairs while the male and female guests take turns conga dancing under the extended arms of the newlyweds and the bride's wedding veil. Then you take off the groom's shoes and throw him in the air. Fun stuff.
9. "Huapango Redoblando"
A huapango is a fast-paced, accordion-driven song that can be line-danced by a couple or in a group. Starting with your left foot, you tap it twice in front of you, then alternate the movement with your right foot, shuffling forward with every cycle. About a million times. What better way than to sweat off the fajitas you ate at dinner?
8. Any cumbia by Fito Olivares
Fito Olivares y La Pura Sabrosura are the masters of the cumbia, and their saxophone-laden sound is always fun to dance to at Mexican weddings. Fito and his brother Javier, may he rest in peace, are from Ciudad Camargo, Tamaulipas, but the group calls Houston home. "Juana La Cubana," "La Gallinita," "El Cholesterol"... we could have chosen literally thousands of Fito songs, but "Aguita De Melon" is one of my favorites.
7. "El Campanero"
Mexicans don't discriminate when it comes to cumbias, and they will jump at the chance to dance cumbias of the vallenato and sabanero variety. These are native to Colombia and rose to popularity in Monterrey. A little slower, but just as fun.
Tribal is a newer form of music that combines traditional Native American rhythms with electronic cumbias. The pointy-boot movement has blown up in the last few years, especially in Texas, with DJ Erick Rincon and his 3BallMTY at the forefront.
5. "El Rey"
Nothing says "Mexican Wedding" like Vicente Fernandez. Actually, Chente is appropriate for any Mexican occasion.
4. "Oye Mi Amor"
A little Rock en Español for the youngsters will keep the party going.
3. Los Tigres Del Norte, "La Puerta Negra"
Los Tigres Del Norte are like The Beatles of Mexico. They are beloved and adored for their songs of struggle, love, and lust. I used to sing this song at the top of my lungs as a kid while my dad grilled fajitas and costillas in the backyard of our East End Houston duplex. Hearing this song at a wedding brings back so many memories of my dearly departed mother, who with the most beautiful smile would encourage me to sing, no matter how badly off-key I was.
Not sure how this one fits in, but this line dance is easy to learn and somehow it works. Why this is played at Mexican weddings continues to baffle me.
1. "Tragos Amargos"
At the end of the night, when the lights are turned on and everyone is looking for a designated driver, this is the song that is played. A song of heartbreak and heartache, this gets you right in the feels. Perfect ending to a fun night.
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Special thanks to DJ Rob Mix of the Latino Soundz DJs for his insight on this topic. Contact him at 832-890-4262 if you need a DJ for your wedding, Mexican or otherwise.