Mariachi, internationally known as Mexican folk music, is one of the most popular genres of international music in Japan. Mariachi originally began as regional, rural folk music from central Mexico. In the 20th century, along with farm workers moving to the city, mariachi musicians developed new styles of performance in city plazas and restaurants, and this regional folk music gradually transformed into an urban phenomenon. In the process of its development, the Mexican government became involved in cultural promotion of mariachi as an international symbol of Mexican identity, first with radio and sound recordings and later through films. In 2011 UNESCO recognized mariachi as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mexico.
Min-On initiated this concert series, entitled Viva! Mexico, in 1993 to showcase performances from acclaimed mariachi artists and Mexican musical groups. This year, Viva! Mexico featured an up-and-coming mariachi band named ‘Mariachi Mexico Bravio’ accompanied by the popular female singer Bibiana from ‘El Lugar del Mariachi,’ a famous mariachi theater in Mexico. Its 33-city Japan tour started in Hachioji, Tokyo on September 16 and concluded in Sapporo, Hokaido on October 28, with a capacity audience at every venue. Each member of the band—consisting of two violins, two trumpets, a classical guitar, a high-pitched guitar called a vihuela and a large bass guitar known as a guitarrón—dresses in a particular Traje style costume, which includes ankle boots, a broad-rimmed sombrero, a short jacket and a large bowtie, creating the classic mariachi flamboyance. The singer Bibiana wears a variety of bright colorful dresses, a beautiful flower blooming on each stage scene celebrating the festivity of Mexico. They performed various styles of cheerful and vibrant mariachi, including a number of romantic and passionate songs such as Quien Sera, Besame Mucho, La Malaguena and other Mexican favorites. During this year’s Japan tour, Viva! Mexico again earned thunderous applause from thousands of enthusiastic mariachi fans.