While everyone was focused on the last minute dropout of Kanye West and the quick substitution of The Weekend and Swedish House Mafia at Coachella, something was happening below the top lines of the festival poster – regional Mexican bands and Latin Acts, including those singing only in Spanish, were scattered throughout the program.
Near the top was Banda MS, from Mazatlán, a frequent vacation spot for those of us in Central Mexico and one I have visited, although not for a vacation. The MS in the band’s name stands for the state of Michoacan – the state across Lake Chapala from me – and the state of Sinaloa. They got the packed crowd moving with El Mechón”, their first hit, and continued from there.
Banda MS got people dancing and waving Mexican flags with songs like ” El Color de Tus Ojos” y “Hermosa Experiencia” and bit of “Qué Maldición”, originally recorded with Snoop Dog. The 50-minute set was also driven by their hit songs “Por Mí No Te Detengas”, “Ojos Cerrados” and “Háblame de Ti” , much to the delight of the crowd who seemed to know the lyricspretty well, at least from the YouTube videos I have watched (I wasn’t there).
Also on Weekend 2 was Groupo Firme, from Tijuana, who energized a screaming crowd of thousands with their hit “El Toxico”. And Sunday of course was the Coachella debut of Natanael Cano, who combines rock, rap and pop and the Mexican story-telling genre, corridos. Ed Maverick from Chihuahua brought his singer-songwriter folk, alternative and rock music mashup music to Coachella on Sunday, making it a great day for Latin music.
Other Latin acts, both in English and Spanish, include Karol G, Niki Nicole, Anitta, Alaina Castillo, Nathy Peluso, and the Latin-Canadian Jessica Reyes along with American- Mexican bands Chicago Batman, Cuco, Ela Minus, Omar Apollo, Pabllo Vittar, and The Marias .
So why all the Latin and Mexican bands this year? And why three Mexican regional bands – not national icons, – at Coachella this year?
Just look at the numbers. MRC, which tracks music trends in a joint project with Billboard, revealed in its 2021 Year End Report that Latin music consumption in the U.S. grew by 21.1% ( total album consumption) in 2021 more than any other core music genre. The number of Latin albums bought and streamed in the US hit 48.2 million, up from 39.8 million in 2020, making Latin music the #5 most-consumed music genre in the U.S.
According to the Report, the consumption of Mexican and Latin music last year was concentrated in states with high Hispanic populations, not surprising since all of the high Latin music-consuming states except Florida were Mexico until 1848 and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
But don’t get the idea that so many Latin bands are at Coachella and other mainstream festivals because they appeal to a growing Latin population ; they do, but they are alsothere for everyone. Whether it is Bad Bunny, Karol G, The Marias, or anyone playing reggaeton, the audiences are mixed culture. And all-Spanish lyrics are not a deterrent – people love the Latin beats even if they only catch a few words of the lyrics.
Mexican/Spanish music has been around the US since before there was a US – in the 1500’s in St Augustine and later in the 1760’s when colonists from Mexico introduced the guitar, six-course vihuela, and smaller four-string and five-string instruments into the southwest of what is now the US.
By the1930’s a string of Mexican-programmed radio stations in California’s Central Valley were playing norteño and mariachi for farm workers. On the other side of the country, Cuban music landed in New York City in the 40’s with Arsenio Rodríguez, Desi Arnez and later, La Lupe. During the rock revolution Latinos were there with songs like “La Bomba”, and “Tequila”, and bossa nova.
It is no wonder that the regional Mexican band Groupo Firme sold out Staples Center in LA 7 nights, only one night shy of the record set by Adele. We have been listening to Mexican and Latin music all our lives.
Nor it is difficult to understand why American music audiences – especially younger fans – rock out to Mexican regional music. They have grown up with Latin beats in the background, with friends from Latin America or who are Mexican-Americans or even Dreamers who immigrated from Mexico as children….and who brought their music with them.
So the regional Mexican acts and the many Latin musicians on the bills at Coachella are not ground-breaking or trend setting – they are following the audience, and represent another footstep in the history of music sin fronteras – music without borders.
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