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The History of Mexican Pop Music
by Alex Cosper (3/24/13)


The history of Mexican pop music has its roots in regional Mexican culture as well as the influence of American rock and roll in the fifties and sixties, then disco in the seventies. Many of the hits in Mexicon during the sixites and seventies were Spanish versions of American hits. Some of the artists who did these covers include Angélica María Hartman Ortiz, Alberto Vázquez and Enrique Guzmán. But the song "La Bamba," sung in Spanish and recorded by a California artist with Mexican-American heritage named Richie Valens, was a huge worldwide hit in 1958. The song was a traditional Mexican folk song that had been around for centuries and Valents gave it a rock and roll twist.

Mexican artists who performed original songs began getting widespread national exposure starting with a Televisa TV series called Siempre en Domingo starting in September 1969. By the 1980s there were many emerging international start coming from Mexico such as Yuri, Luis Miguel, Lucía Méndez, Emmanuel and Juan Gabriel. One of the most widely known artists born in Mexico has been Carlos Santana. He was born in Jalisco, one of the wealthier parts of Mexico, and grew up in San Francisco. He was heavily influenced by Richie Valens growing up in the fifties. In the sixties he started a band called Santana, which injected Latin rhythms into rock and roll. By the seventies they were a very important rock band with timeless hits such as "Black Magic Woman," "Evil Ways" and "Oye Come Va."

The traditional sounds of Mexico such as Mariachi and other Latin regions. Salsa, which originates from Cuba, for example, became an important part of Mexican pop music as it was incorporated with disco hits in the seventies. Ranchera music, which dates back to the early 1900s, is a form of acoustic solo music that has become embedded in the fabric of Mexican pop culture. This music celebrates rural imagery with elements of folk and patriotism. Banda music is another traditional style, with roots in polka, using brass instruments. Cumbia dance music is a mix of Caribbean, African and European influences with a heavy emphasis on percussive instruments such as drums and claves. Bolero is slow waltz music with roots tracing back to 18th century Spain. Mambo is a form of Cuban jazz dance music with European and African influences.

Throughout the history of recorded music, Latin American artists were able to penetrate the American charts. But the influence of disco in the seventies and then hip hop in the eighties helped usher in a wave of Latin artists in the nineties on the international dance scene. Although they originated from Puerto Rico, the boy and Menudo helped popularize Latin music in the 1970s, as did Mocedadas from Spain with their 1974 worldwide hit "Eres Tu." Julio Igleslias also came from Spain and helped popularize Spanish language music beginning in the late 1960s. Jose Feliciano came from Puerto Rico and also started having hits in the late sixties. His Spanish recording of "Feliz Navidad" has become a worldwide standard every Christmas season.

From Menudo came Ricky Martin, who had a big impact on Latin music in the nineties. He has a string of big hits sung partly in Spanish such as "Livin' La Vida Loca." Although Selena was born in Texas, she also had an impact on Mexican pop music, incorporating the Tejano style (also called Tex-Mex), which is a form of gospel folk music that grew out of Texas when it was a part of Mexico in the 19th century. Selena earned the nickname "Queen of Tejano" before her tragic murder in 1995 at age 23. One of her biggest hits in Mexico was "Como La Flor" in 1992. Freddy Fender came from Texas and also helped popularize Tejano music with country pop hits in the 1970s. Santana closed out the nineties and opened the new century with a smash hit called "Smooth" from the huge selling album Supernatural, which featured several guests includeing The Product G&B, who sang the number one hit "Maria Maria" partly in Spanish. In the 2000s Shakira from Colombia also helped popularize Latin music.

Alejandro Fernández came from Guadalajara, Jalisco began having hits in the nineties. He was ushered into show business by his father Vincent Fernández, a film star and ranchera singer. Alejandro grew up on a ranch and started out singing ranchera songs. As a contemporary Latin artist he has mixed several traditional Mexican styles such as ranchera, mariachi and folk. In 1995 he was elevated to international fame with the hit "Como Quien Pierde Una Estrella." Since then he's recorded numerous albums and hit singles. Another native from Mexico who has risen to international stardom since the nineties has been Paulina Rubio, who has capitalized on the electronic dance sound. Some of her big hits in Mexico have been "Nieva Nieva" and "El Me Engañó." One of the most popular Latin rock bands originating from Mexico has been Maná, who sang "Corazón Espinado" on Santana's Supernatural album. Other popular acts from Mexico include Thalía, Anahí and Marco Antonio Solís.

In 2008 a band from the Mexican state of Sonora called Los Pikadientes de Caborca made regional Mexican music history when their song "La Cumbia del Río" became a popular ring tone. The song was not recorded in a fancy studio, nor was the group signed to a label at the time. It was mostly a singalong performed in a traditional style. It went viral quickly online and they were offered a deal by Sony. According to a New York Times article (4/3/2009), the ringtone sold 150,000 copies and the song hit number one on the Billboard Regional Mexican chart.

Since 1963, the music industry of Mexico has been represented by the trade group called Asociación Mexicana de Productores de Fonogramas y Videogramas (AMPROFON). The English translation of this organization name is the Association of Producers of Phonograms and Videograms. The organization is a member of the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry), which compiles musical data throughout the world and represents music industry interests. AMPROFON, like the RIAA in America, issues gold, platinum and diamond awards for the shipment of recordings to music retail outlets. These awards, however, reflect a smaller scale for albums (diamond: 300,000 units, platinum: 60,000 units, gold: 30,000 units). AMPROFON also publishes weekly album charts, but does not publish singles charts.

See also:

How to start a music project
Tips on how to produce music
Job of a live sound engineer
Affordable ways to promote music online
How songs become popular











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