Mexican Music

Overview Music
  • Influences from different traditions
  • Internationally famous Mariachi music
  • Traditional Mexican music
  • Famous Mexican musicians and bands

Traditional Mexican Music

Mexico is undeniably tied to its colorful traditional music, costumes, instruments and musicians… this is just as much a part of Mexico as the sombrero, the bullfights, the palenques (cock-fights) and tequila…

When one thinks of Mexican music, mariachis immediately spring to mind, however, aside from this style, there are certain other notable styles that should also be kept in mind, such as the Banda and the Norteña.

Find below a short explanation on each of these popular Mexican musical forms that you are sure to come across during your visit to Mexico for your Spanish Language Course with Sprachcaffe…


Spanish for the word ‘band’, this refers to a group of musicians playing mainly brass instruments and some percussion. Strings are not used although the occasional keyboard may appear from time to time. This kind of ensemble first emerged when around 40 years ago, musicians started getting together, particularly in Sinaloa, a state found in Northern Mexico. Main instruments include: trombones, trumpets and tubas, and several percussion instruments. Besides the typical instruments, a special dance style has emerged and is popular among all age groups in Northern Mexico.


Also originating from the country’s Northern region, the Norteña, literally meaning “from the north” is based on the ballads sung by those living close to the border of Mexico with the U.S. The Norteña is an interesting blend of many musical styles, including country music, the Polka and even the Waltz. Its energetic beats and rhythms are belted out by accordions and large guitars, referred to as “bajo sexto” which form the genre’s main instruments.

Other instruments used include the horn and other strings. Lyrics reflect real life situations, problems and joys, for example issues on drugs, politics, illegal immigrations and the everlasting subject of love. A well known group specializing in this genre is Los Tigres del Norte.


The very popular ranch song or ‘Ranchera’ has its roots in the Mexican Revolution. Music that is typically linked to the countryside and rural life, traditional costumes are the cowboy attire used by the Mexican horsemen with tight breeches boots, gun holsters, jacket, and the all important large sombrero.

Rancheras alternate between joyous and nostalgia, melancholic themes, on simple issues such as unrequited love, and the struggles presented daily by life in the countryside.


The all time representative of traditional Mexican music, the Mariachi genre has big expectations to live up to. It symbolizes much of what the outer world sees Mexico to be, at least regarding music, cultures and folklore.

The Mariachi style is not simple an invention of a single person, but rather the product of the blended culture, music and religion – the indigenous culture mixed with Iberians and later black slaves… The beginnings of the Mariachi are attributed to religion. The Spanish conquerors brought over their Christian religious and religious music and in an effort to teach the natives here about Christianity, they used music and traditionally European instruments to do so. Eager natives tried incorporating these new instruments, especially the violin, using materials available in the surrounding environment, such as crude Word, armadillo leather and animal guts as strings. Spanish music flourished around the region, and a mestizo style emerged, a blend of the two.

Usually composed of at least five musicians, the Mariachis play a combination of trumpets, violins and guitars, as well as two traditional Mexican instruments, the vihuela and the guitarron. It is very lively music and the elaborately decorated and embroidered costumes are similar to those used by musicians who sing and play Rancheras: waist-length jacket, tightly fitted pants and boots and a large sombrero.

The popularity of this music styles has extended beyond national boundaries to the US and has been taken to other parts of the globe by Mexicans as part of their cultural pride and heritage. One of the most famous Mariachis today is Pepe Aguilar.