Mariachi music has been described as the sound of Mexico, with its traditional musical expression dating back to the 18th century and it’s been said that it originated in the state of Jalisco, near Guadalajara and other parts of Western Mexico. But what exactly is Mariachi many would ask? A Mariachi band is an all, Mexican musical group consisting of four or more musicians that wear Charro suits, which consists of a waist-length jacket, bow tie, fitted pants, short boots and a wide-brimmed sombrero and are elaborately decorated with silver or gold buttons and embroidered designs. Mariachi is currently of the biggest musical styles in Mexico and if Mariachi master Jose Hernandez has his way, he wants it to become a Global sensation. With four Grammy nominations and countless other musical accolades, Jose seems like the right guy to make this Global Mariachi dream a reality. He is a world-renowned musician, composer and music educator who continues to break new ground in the world of mariachi music. He is the founder of the world-famous Mariachi Sol de MéxicoÒ and America’s first all-female professional mariachi ensemble Mariachi Reyna de Los AngelesÒ
José is a fifth-generation mariachi whose passion is to bring mariachi music to audiences around the world. In addition to leading two mariachi ensembles, he works tirelessly to inspire and empower the next generation of musicians through the educational initiatives he has founded: The José Hernández’ Mariachi Nationals and Summer InstituteÒ, a mariachi music Summer intensive and competition which brings together some of the country’s top student mariachi ensembles and the Mariachi Heritage Society, which teaches mariachi music and folk dancing to new generations. José has also been the Musical Director of many prestigious mariachi festivals and conferences across the world..
José continues to advance the art of mariachi music with daring new compositions and arrangements. His latest and sixteenth CD, Leyendas de mi Pueblo, is an homage to the great Mexican Mariachi music icons Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, José Alfredo Jiménez, Miguel Aceves Mejía, Javier Solís and Vicente Fernández. He has composed, arranged and provided music for all sixteen Mariachi Sol de México albums. He sings and plays trumpet, violin, guitarrón, and vihuela. He has performed in prestigious venues around the world and recorded with some of the most respected names in the music industry including Selena, Vicente Fernandez, Lola Beltrán, Juan Gabriel, Luis Miguel, Bryan Adams and the Beach Boys.
José’s musical inspirations are rich and diverse, ranging from Agustín Lara to José Alfredo Jiménez. One of José’s proudest achievements is establishing the Sol de México® symphony orchestra, bringing this powerful and vibrant sound to mariachi lovers around the world.
With Jose’s clear passion and love for Mariachi music and the excitement he continues to generate for the genre, I doubt that even President Donald Trump’s wall-building plans can stop this Mexican musical heritage from crossing all borders.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Jose Hernandez and discuss how he became one the leading musical ambassadors for Mariachi music as well as his upcoming concert on July 12th at Davies Symphony Hall
SBP: What songs are your favorites to perform live? How do you go about picking them and arranging your set list?
JH: I like to mix it up for the audience so that they are attentive. Sometimes, I go for the simple lyrics and sometimes we go more poetic, and those numbers really have an impact.
SBP: What real-life projects are you most excited about and do you have other dreams?
JH: Leyendas de mi Pueblo is a project that excites me very much because it brings people joy to remember the songs and the idols of their childhood. One of my dreams is to bring the beauty of mariachi music to the entire world.
SBP: Who has been your biggest inspiration in music and in life?
JH: My biggest inspiration in music and in life have is my father. He was a mariachi as was my grand-father and my great grand-father. They taught me to love and respect mariachi music and the traditions of our Mexican people. I carry those music and life lessons with me and I impart them to my own kids.
SBP: Tell us about your new release, Leyendas de mi Pueblo. What does this album mean to you? What else can we expect to hear at the July 12 concert at Davies Hall?
JH: Our new album release Leyendas de mi Pueblo is important to us because it reminds people of these six important figures and their role in the growth of mariachi music over the past 75 years. We will also incorporate a few dance numbers that were choreographed for original pieces I wrote.
SBP: What instruments do you play and do you also write your own lyrics?
JH: My main instrument is the trumpet and yes, I write my own lyrics.
SBP: What is your favorite instrument used in mariachi music, and why?
JH: It’s hard to pick a favorite instrument in Mariachi because they all have a beautiful and different characteristics that gives the ensemble its unique sound.
SBP: How does the voice/singing play a role in mariachi music and do you enjoy singing or playing more?
JH: The voice is important in mariachi music. When I sing, it’s the most beautiful feeling, connecting with the audience and they feel every word of the story you are telling.
SBP: What makes the music of mariachi accessible to all types of audience members, from all kinds of musical and cultural backgrounds?
JH: I think the excitement of the mariachi sound makes people happy. It’s romantic and lush harmonies really gives it a beautiful sound that appeals to all other cultures.
SBP: Do you see the popularity of Mariachi music growing in the United States?
JH: Yes, mariachi continues to grow in the USA because it unites families. Also, it is taught as a class in many school districts throughout the country.
SBP: By now, you’re a Davies Hall veteran. What’s your favorite thing about performing in this venue, and for San Francisco audiences?
JH: I love the acoustics at Davies Hall but my favorite thing about performing at Davies Hall is the audience. They are among the most exciting audiences anywhere.
SBP: What’s next for Jose Hernandez?
JH: We have many other dates coming up this summer and fall and we are preparing another CD in November.
JOSÉ HERNÁNDEZ AND HIS MARIACHI SOL DE MÉXICO
It was around 1965 when I began to take notice of the words my dad, Esteban Hernández used to utter: “¡‘El Charro Cantor’ es mi consentido!” (The ‘Charro Singer’ is my favorite!) when we used to watch movies from Mexico’s Golden age of cinema as Jorge Negrete would appear on screen. My dad, full of emotion, would explain how much he admired the technique and vocal prowess of the Guanajuato-native and the elegant and respectful way in which he wore the mariachi attire. Ever since, these teachings sealed my vocation: To practice and share only the highest quality music and image of Mariachi.
María Eva Hernández, my mother, would echo the sentiment. She also had her favorite. For her eyes and ears there was no better interpreter of mariachi music than her “Pedrito”. She, like millions of other Mexicans, would applaud the singing and charismatic personality of the “Idol from Guamúchil”. Pedro Infante was a top-notch artist and great friend of the community. He was greatly loved. My mother and his song “amorcito corazón” taught me that the simplicity and humility of a great mariachi will transcend borders.
The years passed and, in my youth, the lessons of life continued. As part of the historic “Mariachi Chapala”, my father accompanied several idols of Mexican music. He used to talk about the audiences at the venues they played and their great love for Mexican music. Listening to Miguel Aceves Mejía, “El Berrendo”, I always admired the ease and control of his falsetto voice. I also admired José Alfredo Jiménez, “The King of Rancheras”, for his amazing songwriting skills and the friendship he had with my father since 1952. And what can I say of the wide range and clear vocal register of Javier Solís, el “Señor Sombras” (Mr. Shadows), he was always so kind and friendly to our family. From all of them, I have learned unique lessons.
During the 1970’s I was lucky to live many musical experiences with Vicente Fernández. He used to love the musical accompaniment of my brother’s mariachi, “Los Galleros de Pedro Rey”. Pedro, Crescencio, Antonio, Humberto, Chuy and I experienced the joys of working with “El Charro de Huentitán”. We would work on arrangements, rehearse them and the results were always notable. The powerful voice of Vicente was always a welcomed challenge during our presentations with him
Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, Miguel Aceves Mejía, José Alfredo Jiménez, Javier Solís and Vicente Fernández are the Legends of my People whose music will always coarse through my mariachi blood. For them, for my parents and my siblings I share my deepest gratitude by way of the six musical homages in this musical production.
Long live México! Long Live the mariachi! Long Live the Legends of my Land!
Catch Jose Hernandez live on July 12 at Davies Symphony Hall.
For complete info and tickets go to: http://www.sfsymphony.org