The weather is perfect to spend a balmy August evening in Beverly Hills enjoying the always popular mariachi sound delivered by masters of rhythms from South of the border. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is offering a feast for the ears of the discriminating on August 26 and 27, 2021, when Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles showcases the musical and folklore traditions of Mexico’s rich culture. This is a not-to-be-missed musical evening for all.
Mariachi has a long and fascinating but often undocumented history in Mexico, probably dating from Hernan Cortes’ arrival in 1519, when natives were first exposed to European instruments – which they rapidly integrated with their own musical traditions, over the centuries morphing into the mariachi we know today. The earliest actual reference to mariachi appeared in a letter written by a priest in 1852. Gradually, mariachi became the music of the Mexican country folk telling of their struggles, joys, pain, and triumphs.
But modern times brought some notable changes to this folk music when rural mariachi moved to the big city in the nineteenth century. In the 1920s, mariachi found a home in Mexico City – and more recently in Los Angeles, another hub of urban development. Mariachi instruments changed with time, so that now the standard contemporary instrumentation for a full mariachi is two trumpets (added in the last century), three or more violins, a vihuela (a small, guitar-like instrument with five strings), a guitar, and a guitarron (a large, six-string bass version of the vihuela). Finally, add the musicians’ voices to get the full and tantalizing effect. Regardless of changes over the years, mariachi has remained an important part of Mexican celebrations, whether they be weddings, saint’s days, baptisms, or funerals. In a society where young people were often segregated by sex, the mariachi serenata, a musical message of love, let the shy young man tell his inamorata of his love.
To the diverse mix of cultural events, Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles has added its own special element as the world’s first LGBTQ+ mariachi band. This unique and dynamic ensemble shares the Mexican music now famous throughout the world. Directed by Carlos Samaniego, this passionate, innovative group features Natalia Melendez, the first transgender woman in the history of mariachi.
Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles serenades the audience at 8 p.m. on Thursday, 8/26/21 and Friday 8/27/21. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. The outdoor show runs for 90 minutes without an intermission. Tickets are $30. For information and reservations, call 310-746-4000 or go online.