February 26, 2007

Mexican Polka

Awhile ago I wrote about El Barragas's band, which plays Musica Nortena. What is Musica Nortena?

Musica Nortena or Northern Music is popular in the northern states of Mexico. The states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila are the ones responsible for bringing forth this music. This music is characterized by borrowing the polka and waltz rhythm of Germany and Poland. German and Polish polka use woodwind instruments, a tuba for bass, and an accordion. Mexican polka switches some of the instruments. In Mexican polka, the accordion is still used for the lead instrument. This accordion is usually a diatonic and botton based. Diatonic basically means the accordion will play a note when the box is squeezed in and another when squeezed out. They do not use the woodwind instruments or the tuba, and very few brass instruments. Instead, they use a Bajo Sexto, which is a twelve-string Mexican guitar. This instrument is strummed through a piece of music to keep the time. As for a bass instrument, they used a double bass in the past and know use an electric bass guitar. Drums also fill in for musica nortena. Sometimes, a saxophone is used to play harmony along with the accordion. The bands are made up of a minimum four people.

Musica nortena is not just about playing polkas or waltzes. This type of music includes other rhythms like redovas, chotis, boleros, cumbas and huapangos. The one type of song and rhythm that gives musica nortena its signature trait is that of the Corrido. What is a corrido? A corrido is a song that tells a story, event, tragedy or a heroic event. The rhythm is characterized as a fast-paced waltz. Corridos dominate the the life of musica nortena. Most corridos were composed during the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata have many corridos that tell of their deeds and the way they died.

A special thanks for El Barragas for the information.

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