November 21, 2011
Since I picked up this little gem, I’ve been playing it incessantly. It’s a beautiful example of regional Mexican music, and it’s positively anthemic – rollicking, upbeat, happy, and played with finesse.
The Trio Los Aguilillas performed local corridos, but they also issued discs of wonderful son huasteco from the various states in northeastern Mexico, son jarocho from Veracruz, and – today’s example – son michoacano. In terms of instrumentation, it’s fairly close to son jarocho, featuring guitar, a type of local jarana guitar (5 or 8 strings, depending on its origin), and the harp. Michoacán is one of the regions in Mexico where the harp – sometimes known as the arpa grande or even the arpa de tierra caliente – flourished. Traditionally, it is played while standing, and can be 3-5 feet tall, with a soundbox on it’s base acting as a resonator.
While Aguilillas literally means “little eagles,” in this case it’s also a reference to the town of Aguililla, in Michoacán, the birthplace of the Trio, which was comprised of three brothers, Antonio, Pedro, and Juan Rivera. The brothers were taught by their father, Don Pedro Rivera, a local harpist known throughout Michoacán as a great interpreter of the region’s music. Eventually the brothers moved from the family’s farm to Mexico City, to try and make their living as professional musicians. Apparently it took years before their local music was accepted without being watered down. Ethnomusicologist and anthropologist Joseph R. Hellmer aka Raúl Hellmer (1913-1971) recorded them ca. 1950 as “Trio Aguilillas” and issued their 10″ disc on Folkways titled “Sones of Mexico.” This Columbia disc dates from around the same time.
Issue Number: 6233-X
Matrix Number: MEX-99
September 28, 2008
Over the next couple of weeks, I thought I’d revisit some music from regions I hadn’t been back to since the early days of the blog. With the spirit of Lydia Mendoza in mind, and after a recent viewing of Chulas Fronteras instigated by my friend Chimatli, I thought I’d spin some more early Tejano music from the Texas-Mexico border.
Alejandro Luna and Regino Delgado recorded several sides for Victor’s Depression-era, budget-conscious subsidiary label Bluebird in the mid-1930s, including this one, “Sal A Tus Puertas” (meaning “Come To Your Doors” – thanks, Dax). This particular track was recorded at the Texas Hotel in San Antonio on January 25th, 1935, and the duo accompany themselves on guitar and bajo sexto.
The Bluebird “ethnic” series began in about 1934 and lasted until 1939, totalling about 1400 records. The recording industry had been crushed by the Depression, but Victor, in large part due to their Bluebird subsidiary (which also released country, blues, jazz and pop), were able to ride out the difficult times. For example, in the late-teens, it was not uncommon for a 78rpm record to cost $1.00, or even $1.25. Very pricey, considering. Well, by the early 30s, with sales in the tank and record companies folding left and right, Bluebird records went on sale for 35 cents.
Finding Mexican or cajun records on the Bluebird ethnic series is possible, but it is quite difficult to find them in decent condition. Today’s track has some wear, but we embrace surface noise here at Excavated Shellac, though we try to soften it up just a little bit! Plus, it’s an enjoyable piece of music that has not yet been compiled or written about…
Issue Number: B-2317
Matrix number: n/a
December 10, 2007
A few years ago, I was introduced by Chimatli to Son Huasteco music from Eastern and Northeastern Mexico, and immediately took a liking to it. Interestingly, it’s taken me some time to locate authentic sones huastecos on 78rpm, though I’m sure quite a number were recorded – as were numerous inauthentic sones huastecos, but more on that in a minute.
Son Huasteco music is played by a trio: two players on guitars (often local guitars from the region, such as the juarana huasteca and the eight-stringed guitarra quinta), and the determining factor, a fiddle player who plays hard and fast, in a rough-hewn style that’s completely engaging. There have been several times where I’ve taken a chance on a 78rpm Son Huasteco record only to find that it’s simply a vocal trio with no violin – a cover band of sorts. This record, which I received in the mail last week and thought would be a fine companion to last week’s entry, is getting to closer to the real thing. “El Llorar” was recorded by a few different artists in the 78rpm era, besides Nicandro Castillo, featured here. It continues to be a perennial classic performed by current huasteco trios in Mexico, such as the incredible Los Camperos de Valle. Castillo’s version was released on a 2-CD Mexican set titled Huapangos Y Sones De Le Huasteca, but that appears to be out of print and unavailable – so I offer my copy here.
Also, I would be foolish if I did not mention the unbelievably important work being done by record collecting giant Chris Strachwitz and his Arhoolie Foundation in conjunction with UCLA. Their Frontera Collection of Mexican American Music is something that should be used as a model for future preservation efforts of music from the 78rpm era. Chris Strachwitz, as well as the others that I have mentioned throughout this blog, is someone whom I humbly look up to as a pioneer in broadening musical taste and knowledge through the preservation of early music.
Nicandro Castillo con sus Huastecos – El Llorar
Stay tuned for a holiday-related update in a few days.
Label: RCA Victor
Issue Number: 23-6413
Matrix Number: E4XB-9068
August 6, 2007
There’s precious little that can compare with the unmistakable voice and guitarra doble of Lidya Mendoza, also known as “La Alondra de la Frontera,” or “The Lark of the Border.”
Lidya (commonly known as “Lydia”) was born in 1916 and began singing with her family in the Plaza del Zacate of San Antonio at a young age. In 1928, the Mendoza Family recorded 10 sides for the Okeh label. However, in the early 1930s, she signed a 10 year contract with the Victor subsidiary Bluebird, and recorded hundreds of tejano classics.
This canción, uncompiled as far as I know, was recorded on August 12th, 1935, in San Antonio’s Texas Hotel. The title translates to “I Will Not Forget You.” Her 78s can be found, but most often in one condition: trashed! They were well loved, and finding a decent copy of any early Mendoza is a good thing.
She is a legend, and there’s little else but hyperbole I can add to her biography. For more, go here. Or here. And if you’re interested in music, please go to the Arhoolie label and check out their fine Mendoza releases.
As a recent reader noted, Lydia Mendoza passed away on December 20, 2007. The New York Times obit can be read here.
Label: Montgomery Ward
Issue Number: M-4866
Matrix Number: B-2379A