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Music Sin Fronteras  2.19.23

From a house concert to a county fair, young talent in Mexico looks very good..

From recording studio to country fair: the future of Mexican music looks good

This week for me has been a contrast in music and venues but a single realization about the future of music in Mexico. It looks damn good!

First, on Wednesday I was treated to a home jazz concert at the Casa Musica recording studio in Ajijic.   The studio, which I have talked about before, is run by musician/singer/charro/teacher Emmanuel Medeles. It sits on a ridge overlooking Lake Chapala and the mountains beyond, and is a beautiful location for both a recording studio and a concert.

The group playing was Latin Matters Quartet, made up of some of the best jazz musicians in Jalisco, if not the country of Mexico. Led by master guitarist Juan Castañon, with Freddy Adrián on standup electric bass, Ronald Rivero on grand piano, and Alex Medeles on the drums the LMQ took us through two luxurious sets of classic jazz and Mexican boleros.

Set 1  was all instrumental classics by LMQ: Cole Porter’s 1930 Love for Sale, Benny Golson’s 1956 Whisper Not,  and Dizzy Gillespie’s 1954 Con Alma.

Set 2 introduced two students from the CREM music school (Centro de Realización de Estudios Musicales) in Ajijic, Mexico, where our host Emmanuel teaches. They sang Cuban composer  Ernesto Duarte Brito’s  Cómo Fue and Mexican composer  Armando Manzanero‘s Esta tarde Vi Llover .  Emmanuel Medeles sang Tu, mi delirio by Mexican composer and songwriter Agustín Lara

The Quartet took over again with Mal Waldron ‘s 1963 song “Soul Eyes” and finished up with the 1943 Tres palabras by Cuban composer Osvaldo Farrés.

After hearing the two students sing with the world-class music of the LMQ, I could see the reason why Latin music – and Mexican music in particular – is exploding on streaming platforms and charts around the world. The existing and upcoming talent is breathtaking.

That was underscored for me in a totally different venue Friday night, the Chapala Carnaval Fair  dance demonstration, held on Parque Cristina stage in the late afternoon and early evening . The demonstration showcased the students at local dance schools, and some of the kids onstage were so small you could hardly see them over the monitors. But they moved through their routines without hesitation. The older students  – in mid  and late teens –  were tight, making all the right moves to a  medley of Michael Jackson songs as well as others. And of course, there was traditional Mexican folklorico dancing, but even this had a few modern twists to it. And it was tight.

The choreographed demonstration was preceded by boys and girls doing rap and robot dances to American music. In fact, all of the music in the dance show, except for the folklorico, was American – a testament to the reach of US culture. The same is true for the jazz concert, although less so. LMQ mixed Americans Dizzy Gillespie and Cole Porter with Mexican and Cuban composers, although this is not surprising given that jazz is a US-generated art form with African influences And of course, there is now a large and dedicated Latin jazz  audience on streaming platforms worldwide.

Latin Matters Quartet:Freddi Adrian, Ronald Rivero, Juan Castañon, and Alex Medeles

The dancers came from local dance schools and studios, and, needless to say, the audience was parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters and a forest of cellphones taking videos. I was very impressed that even the youngest dancers on stage were dedicated – the knew what they were doing, they felt the music rather than just going through the moves, and they wanted to be there.

Last week I wrote about the fact that the headliner music at the Chapala Carnaval was all men. But what I saw on the dance stage gave me hope. The dance demonstration is another indication of the quality of upcoming talent in Mexico. If it is this good in a small town in central Mexico, that is great news, but not unexpected.  After all, Santana was born only a couple of hours from here.

So it is not out of the realm of possibility that in a very few years some of the kids will be backing up Thalia in her flamboyant stage shows and TV specials.  Or maybe backing up a superstar singer still in music school.

Patrick O’Heffernan



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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (428 Articles)
Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist based in Mexico, with a global following. He focuses on music in English and Spanish that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America, especially Mexico like cumbia, banda, son jarocho, and mariachi. He is also edits a local news website and is a subeditor of a local Spanish language newspaper. Check out his weekly column Music Sin Frontera on Sunday nights.

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