Photo: Señor Codo/Flickr
Mariachi singer in Chicago, 2006.
Oh, the Internet! Last night, my husband was able to track down a ton of information on a 19th Century Norwegian church in the town where we have lived for 35 years that no one ever mentioned to us. For all the scary things the Internet is responsible for, who could do without it today? There are so many great links we share with one another.
How else would I have learned, for example, that Mariachi bands were extremely popular in the former Yugoslavia. Mexican Mariachi? Crazy.
Jonny Wrate at the website Roads and Kingdoms has a report.
“Marina de Ita had dreamed of travelling Europe for years. Her band, Polka Madre, was heavily influenced by Balkan and Roma folk music and, back in the late nineties in Mexico City, she’d fallen in love with the music of Goran Bregović.
‘ ‘I used to have parties in a clandestine bar in my house in 1998 and people went crazy for those tunes,’ she says. ‘It came as a relief for many of us who were tired of rock and the music offered by Western countries.’
“In 2015, her band was invited to play at the International Circus Festival in Mardin, Turkey, and de Ita seized the chance for a quick trip to the region she’d long wished to visit.
“Once she arrived in Belgrade, she decided to make some money busking. ‘At first, I played some Finnish polkas and some from our Balkan-influenced repertoire, but nobody paid much attention,’ she says. ‘They just threw a few coins.’
“Yet when she played ‘Bésame Mucho,’ a seventy-year-old Mexican bolero, a small crowd gathered around her. Some sang along. ‘An old man became very emotional and even shed a few tears,’ de Ita says.
“The warm reception took her by surprise, but half a century ago, such songs dominated Yugoslav airwaves. As a Croatian friend’s mother recalls, ‘It was always Mexican songs and Bollywood films.’ …
“Explore the many shelves in Belgrade’s Yugovinyl store today and you can quickly amass a pile of ‘Yu-Mex’ records. The faded photographs on their sleeves depict men with names like Ljubomir Milić and Đorđe Masalović, proudly wearing sombreros and glittering charro suits. On the turntable, these records sound straight out of Guadalajara, except that the lyrics are in Serbo-Croat. For the Mexicans that ruled the radios here were, in fact, Yugoslav.”
More at Roads and Kingdoms.
I do love this kind of unexpected cultural cross-fertilization. Who knew?