Mariachi is a type of folk music that originated in western Mexico hundreds of years ago. However, the form of mariachi music that we are familiar with today came about during the 19th century in the state of Jalisco. Violins, trumpets, vihuelas (small guitar) and the guitarrón (a Mexican large guitar) are the main instruments used in today’s ensembles. Mariachi bands are found at many happy occasions, including celebrations and special events, or even at restaurants serenading patrons as they dine. While Philly’s not Mexico, we still have access to great mariachi bands. Here are some of the best in the region.
Magdaliz and Her Latin Ensemble Crisol
“Crisol” is Spanish for “melting pot,” a fitting name for a band that is well versed in many folk and traditional music types from Latin America, including those of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico. Magdaliz Roura, who was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and discovered her talent for music at a young age, is the founder and main performer in the band, and the other musicians vary depending on what your needs are. Magdaliz will put together a Mariachi band for you by request.
Mariachi Maya Internacional
Mariachi Maya Internacional performs every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Mexican restaurant La Tolteca in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The band has also played with Pedro Villaseno in many cultural events and festivals organized by the Mexican Cultural Center of Philadelphia. Mariachi Maya is also for hire to perform during your special event (birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, etc.); just call the number listed above. The ensemble features trumpets, violins and guitars, and they dress in traditional charro attire.
Mariachi Oro De Mexico
Mariachi Oro De Mexico was started in New Jersey in 1988 by Jose Guadalupe. Today, the band is comprised of six members (two trumpets, two violins, a guitarrón and a vihuela) and plays all over the states of New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania. Mariachi Oro De Mexico performs at many hotels and restaurants in the Tri-State area and is even seen at the Atlantic City Casinos. It has also played at many Mexican cultural events but will perform for any occasion.
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Mariachi Rey Azteca
Reading, PA 19601
Mariachi Rey Azteca is a five-piece ensemble of two trumpeters, a violinist, a vihuela player and a guitarist. Bandleader and trumpet player Jose Armando Rosa formed the band in 2009 in Reading. The group is well versed in many different styles of Mexican music and has a huge repertoire for any occasion, whether you want to serenade your loved one or hire the band for your birthday party. Mariachi Rey Azteca wears traditional mariachi suits and charro hats and performs all over Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.
Pedro Villaseno La Voz Romantica y su Mariachi was founded by Pedro Villaseno, who has been performing in and around Philly since the 1980s. Pedro Villaseno La Voz Romantica y su Mariachi brings you a solo performer or a full mariachi band (with your choice of four or more musicians). You can also hire Mexican folk dancers for your event, who may accompany a mariachi band or perform on their own. The musicians have performed at restaurants, weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, Philadelphia art museums and more places in the region. The group also sells authentic, custom-made mariachi suits.
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Kelly Neilson is a freelance writer living and working in Philadelphia. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.