Being a mariachi is a specialized gig. You might be able to fool people who don't know the music by wearing those tight pants and little jackets and playing with lots of vibrato. But hardcore mariachi fans will call you out in a minute if you try to fake it.
Mariachi El Bronx never has to worry about being called out. Though the group's members started out and still perform as the L.A. punk band The Bronx, they've managed to reinvent themselves with exceptional authenticity. They play with just the right amount of passion and pathos; they pick and strum and blow as if they've studied the masters; and they don't look out of place in the pants and jackets.
I used to avoid mariachi as a kid, thinking it was old people's music — it was "square" and "un-hip" — but then I lived a couple of decades. I loved and lost, I felt nostalgic for my old neighborhood, I learned to drink, I learned to dance and I learned to ride horses (okay, not really).
At that point, I understood. A life lived without guitar, violins and trumpets to celebrate or take away the sting isn't a full enough life. Mariachi El Bronx understands this, too. You can feel it in the music, and in this fun Tiny Desk Concert at the NPR Music offices.
- "Revolution Girls"
- "Everything Dies"
- "Norteño Lights"
Producers: Bob Boilen and Felix Contreras; Editor: Michael Katzif; Videographers: Michael Katzif and Emily Bogle; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; photo by Claire O'Neil/NPR