Culture, Rich Rhythms, And Romance
BY VIRGINIA STILL
Family tradition and culture encompass what Mariachi Sol de Mexico is all about. The 13-piece group that features guitarrón, trumpets, violins, vihuela, Spanish guitar and harmonized singers will perform for audiences in a night of beautiful, romantic melodies to ignite the senses at the Gallo Center for the Arts on May 3.
The platinum-selling Sol de Mexico was formed in 1981 by Jose Hernandez, also known as the Mariachi King. He is a fifth generation mariachi performer and many of his nephews and nieces also play instruments and sing, making them the sixth generation to take on the mariachi tradition. His family roots are in Jalisco, which he expressed is the birthplace of Mariachi music.
“My five older brothers and my father were all mariachi musicians and they were very good musicians in some of the top groups in the world,” stated Hernandez. “They would rehearse at least three times a week in the living room. I was four years old singing in the projects of East Los Angeles.”
With a long family history in the music industry, Hernandez has created mariachi music for several movies including all three “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” movies, “McFarland,” “Seabiscuit,” “Trolls,” “Rango” and he has also finished an arrangement for a new Disney Christmas movie called “Nicole” that will be coming out in December.
Sol de Mexico has six violins, three trumpets, a harp, the Mexican bass which is called a guitarrón, the vihuela and Spanish guitar.
“Mariachi songs are very much like country songs,” added Hernandez. “The neat thing about Sol de Mexico is that they are a very young looking group so it looks very dynamic on stage. The guys are young and all of them sing and they are very good musicians. It is pretty neat when the people hear Sol; it is traditional but it also could be very orchestral almost like a small chamber orchestra and we are very big on music education.”
Hernandez has an impressive résumé with a skillset ranging from playing the trumpet, the vihuela, singing, to composing, writing and producing. He is also involved in music education and teaches master mariachi workshops around the world and helped create the curriculum in schools throughout the United States.
The group has had collaborations with other musicians like Linda Ronstadt, the Beach Boys, Green Day, Roseanne Cash, Vincente Fernandez, Selena, and Sol de Mexico toured with Luis Miguel. Along with performing at the inaugural Latin Grammy Awards, the group has played concerts in Beijing, China, and Pyongyang in North Korea.
Another highlight for Sol de Mexico is performing for several U.S. Presidents including Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.
“We are sort of the go to Mariachis that they call for these special events,” explained Hernandez. “I feel very honored. I wish my dad was here to see it. Thanks to him and my grandfather, they are the ones that really taught us how to work, how to be professional, and how to respect an audience and how to really love our craft and how to do it at a high level.”
Hernandez was honored with the Latino Humanitarian Award at a FIFA game in Los Angeles in March for his work in education and with children. Sol de Mexico performed both the Mexican and American national anthems and played during the halftime show.
The premier Mariachi group has a new album that was released at the end of April that has a tribute to six mariachi singers that are the greatest of all time.
Describing their music as world music with some symphony and orchestra similarities, Hernandez and the group sings in trios, solos and perform instrumental pieces that move quickly and bring to mind passion and romance.
“Playing at the Gallo Center is the perfect place to listen to a show,” expressed Hernandez. “We played it before in some years past and we have always done well there. It is an amazing place to go play. It is very intimate. We love it. Sol de Mexico is traditional but it can also be very orchestral. I think that is the best thing to really bring cultures together and music is so awesome; it really has no barriers. We could play classical, we could play opera, we could play the traditional Mexican music, it is so versatile.”