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A group of people with musical instruments on a stage
Sones de México Ensemble (l-r): Juan Díes, Lorena Iñiguez, Juan Rivera, Gonzalo Cordova, Eric Hines, Zacbé Pichardo. Photo by Stephen Winick for AFC.

Homegrown Plus: Sones de Mexico Ensemble Concert and Corrido Lecture

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Welcome to Homegrown Plus, Classic Edition! Until 2018, we weren’t recording most of our Homegrown interviews on video and we hadn’t yet thought of Homegrown Plus. But there are some concert videos from that era that deserve the Homegrown Plus treatment of placing concert videos together with an interview or other related video in an easy-to-find blog post. In this case, we’ll feature a classic concert from 2015 featuring the Sones de México Ensemble, along with a lecture on corridos by band member and ethnomusicologist Juan Díes, and a video of the inaugural reading of Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, in which Herrera and Díes performed a corrido composed according to principles outlined in Díes’s lecture.

Sones de México Ensemble is a Mexican folk musical group that specializes in Mexican son, a cluster of genres encompassing the roots of mariachi music and other regional styles, including huapango, gustos, chilenas, son jarocho, and more. The ensemble was formed in Chicago in 1994 and soon incorporated as a non-profit organization to keep the tradition of Mexican ‘son’ alive in its many regional forms. As performers and recording artists, members of the ensemble have developed and popularized many original arrangements of Mexican traditional tunes. The group’s original work has included cross-culturally experimental projects with symphonic, Irish, Chinese, folk, blues, country & western, jazz, and rock musicians, though never abandoning its roots in Mexican son. The members of the ensemble who played at the Library in 2015 were Juan Díes, Lorena Íñiguez, Juan Rivera, Zacbé Pichardo, Gonzalo Córdova, and Eric Hines. See their wonderful concert in the player below!

Our second video shows an illustrated lecture by Juan Díes, a folklorist and ethnomusicologist as well as a member of Sones de México Ensemble. Juan’s lecture was an introduction to the tradition of corridos. Corridos are ballads typical of the Mexican-American border region, which narrate tragic tales based on true events, often honoring folk heroes who stand up for their rights against injustice. In his talk, Juan cleared up some misconceptions about corridos, and gave a fascinating and thorough introduction to the genre.

In addition to the corridos lecture, Juan Díes, along with other members of Sones de México Ensemble, led the first event AFC has ever run entirely in Spanish: a workshop on writing corridos. During this day-long program, a group of students learned to write a corrido from scratch. For the subject of their corrido, the students chose the then-recent case of Sandra Bland. Starting with the facts of the case, and using the conventional language of corridos, they came up with lyrics for a new song, intended to be sung to the tune of “Corrido de los Pérez.” As a special guest, the Library’s Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry (2015-2017), Juan Felipe Herrera, joined the workshop, adding his wisdom and skill as a poet to the proceedings.

Because the workshop was intended as a safe space for attendees to kick around ideas informally, we didn’t record it for webcast. However, the corrido itself was publicly performed by the Poet Laureate and Juan Díes, as part of the 21st Poet Laureate Inaugural Reading. You can watch the entirety of the Poet Laureate’s inaugural reading in the player below. Juan Díes comes out to help perform the corrido about 40 minutes into the video:

Collection Connections and Links

If you enjoyed the concert and interview, check out the Collection Connections below. You’ll find links to archival collections, guides, and other materials related to Mexican music and culture.

Two men sit in chairs on a stage. One plays a guitar.
Juan Felipe Herrera (left) and Juan Díes On the Coolidge Auditorium stage, rehearsing for their performance. You can see the performance itself in the video above! Photo by Stephen Winick for AFC.

 

Connect with Sones de México Ensemble

Collections Guide

AFC’s Latinx and Latin American Collections Guide features links to many of our relevant collections.

Field Collections Online

The collections guide above links to our collections that come from Hispanic or Latinx communities. The collections below are the ones online with significant Mexican American content, including collections from communities that have been in areas of the United States since those areas were in Mexico.

Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection

California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell

Hispano Music and Culture of the Northern Rio Grande: The Juan B. Rael Collection

New Mexico Folklife Project Collection

Event Videos

Blogs

Until Next Time…

Thanks for watching, listening, and reading! The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. For several years, we’ve been presenting the concerts here on the blog with related interviews and links, in the series Homegrown Plus. (Find the whole series here!) For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.

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