Bright decorations, delicious food, and a group of loved ones. You have all the ingredients for a beautiful Cinco de Mayo celebration, almost. 

What else do you need? Music! Nothing shows you know how to celebrate Cinco de Mayo better than live, authentic Mexican music. 

We have a stable of bands and musicians ready to play your Cinco de Mayo party. Allow us to introduce you to the full range of styles they can play in this exploration of Mexican music. You will also learn more about this holiday and where music fits into the celebration.

Read on to soak up all the knowledge you need to hire a truly great Mexican band for Cinco de Mayo.

A Cinco de Mayo History Lesson

Let’s get one thing clear. Cinco de Mayo is not “Mexican Independence Day.” It serves a more symbolic purpose than that.

Cinco de Mayo is a relatively small holiday in Mexico. It celebrates the Battle of Puebla, in which a poorly equipped group of Mexican soldiers defeated French troops. Symbolically, Cinco de Mayo is a reminder of the independent Mexican spirit, which refuses to submit to foreign forces.

Cinco de Mayo has flourished in America after Chicanos in the mid-20th century popularized the holiday as a celebration of Mexican heritage. An authentic Cinco de Mayo celebration includes heaping portions of Mexican food, and of course, great Mexican music. That’s where we come in. 

How to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Song

Mexican music is more than mariachi, although mariachi is part of it! The traditional music of Mexico falls into several genres, all of which are worth exploring. Take a look in this tour we have assembled through Mexican music.

Son

Son is a broad term for Mexican folk music, and it is the roots from which the tree of Mexican music blossoms. Most other styles come from son, in one way or another. 

The word “son” means sound in Spanish. These musical sounds originated in the rural areas of Mexico. The music mixes native influences with the sounds of Africa and Spain.

Son instrumentation is basic. Typically, a son song includes just guitar, violin, a large acoustic bass guitar known as a guitarron, and a small drum.

There are several variations of son, based on the various regions in Mexico where the music is from. 4/4 and 6/8 time signatures dominate the rhythm of son.

To give you an idea of the sound of son, Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” is actually an adaptation of a traditional son song. You can hear how such a party-starter would still be popular in celebrations today.

Ranchera

Ranchera is another Mexican musical style, and it evolved from son around the turn of the 20th century. The word “ranchera” means “from the ranch,” which speaks to the country origins of the music. 

1910 was the beginning of the Mexican Revolution, which lasted most of the following decade. Since ranchera music began during this time, it has heavy themes of patriotism and pride in Mexican heritage. There are strong heroes and villains in ranchera songs, especially in the subset of songs called corridos.

Not all ranchera music is celebratory. There are many ranchera ballads, which are usually sung in 3/4 time similar to the polkas that were popular at the beginning of the 20th century.

One last note about ranchera. It is the genre that gave birth to the high-pitched yelp made famous in mariachi. The technical term for this sound is “grito.” 

Norteno

Norteno music is an especially eclectic style. As you may be able to tell by the name, it comes from the northern part of the country, along Mexico’s border with the United States. As a result, it incorporates sounds from all over, including German, Bohemian, Moravian, and Czech cultures.

Norteno’s instrumentation distinguishes it from the other Mexican musical styles. Norteno often includes accordion and tuba. It is the Mexican music style closest to polka, and it has the same “oom-pah” rhythm.

Mariachi

Last but not even close to least, we have mariachi. Mariachi is the most popular form of Mexican music, which is partially because it is such a thrill to hear live.

Before we talk about the music itself, we have to talk about the costumes. They are called “traje de charro,” and they are distinguished by their tight fit and extreme ornamentation that contrasts with the dark base colors of the suits themselves. They strike quite an image, and they let you know immediately you are having a special cultural experience.

The sound of mariachi is the fullest of the styles listed, thanks to quite full instrumentation. Mariachi bands include guitars, guitarrons, violins, drums, brass, and even lead vocalists. Instrumentalists also provide vocals, which contribute to massive, rich harmonies. 

One of the reasons mariachi is so popular is that the subject matter is frequently romantic. This is why a mariachi band makes a great backdrop for proposals and date nights.

Mariachi started in the 19th century, making it one of the oldest styles we’ve discussed. It is also one of the most enduring. Everyone loves a mariachi band for the celebration of Mexican heritage that is Cinco de Mayo.

Bring the Sounds of Mexico to You

Now that you know more about the styles of Mexican music, you have a better idea of the kind of entertainment an authentic Mexican band can bring to your Cinco de Mayo celebration. No one knows how to celebrate Cinco de Mayo better than a group of enthusiastic musicians. They add a festive spirit that every party needs.

Use your newfound Mexican music knowledge to talk to bands about just how you would like to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. You can request a quote for a band today.