Mariachi music is a fundamental part of Mexican heritage and the music creates an atmosphere that is powerful indeed.” – Rodri Rodriguez, Founder/Producer/Host
Mariachi USA has been selling out the Hollywood Bowl’s over 17,000 seats for twenty-five years straight and this coming June 28th will be no exception. There are only a few tickets left for this Southern California tradition produced by entrepreneur and founder Rodri Rodriguez. This year promises to be even more spectacular as they celebrate their Silver Anniversary with four and a half hours of performances by stellar Mariachi groups, folkloric dancers, fireworks, family fun and sing alongs in the grandest Mariachi festival in the country.
The tradition of the Mariachi goes back hundreds of years. The ensemble familiar today began to take shape in the nineteenth century in the state of Jalisco. The groups typically include violins, trumpets, guitars, and various smaller percussion instruments native to Mexico. The players usually dress in similar outfits, including a wide-brimmed hat.
Back in 1990 when Rodri decided to launch the Mariachi USA festival she had just “retired” from producing concerts in Latin America for acts like Eric Clapton, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and David Bowie. She decided her next endeavor would have to be something she was passionate about — and she was passionate about Mexican music. Having started her career right out of high school working for El Gordo Delgado, the biggest Mexican music concert producer and promoter in Los Angeles, she learned all about promoting and producing working on his awards show El Disco de Oro which was produced at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
It was during those years that her love for Mexican music, and Mariachis in particular developed. She always envisioned the Mariachi groups as the stars not just as back up musicians, and she wanted them to play at the finest venues with state of the art sound systems. She envisioned them performing at the Hollywood Bowl, the grandest amphitheater in the Southwest. Having set her sights high she reached out her one friend that could help make it happen, Ernest Fleischmann, at that time the director of the L.A. Philharmonic, and offered him a partnership.
Fleischmann gave her all the reasons why it would probably not work, but in end, seeing Rodri’s conviction signed on, letting her know that she would have to come up with the $250,ooo it would take to produce the show. With the help of her friends and family she took a leap of faith and has never looked back. That was twenty-five years ago. That first year, not only did the mariachi concert sell out but over 1,000 persons would be turned away. Disappointed, the audience took to the parking lot and only left after the concert was done. Thus began the Southern California Summer tradition of Mariachi USA at the Hollywood Bowl.
Every summer the event that is often referred to as the “heart” of the Hollywood Bowl is sure to be packed to capacity. Even in the economic downturn audiences would turn out to see the most exciting Mariachi groups from the U.S. and Mexico. “To a Mariachi aficionado the price is not a factor,” Rodri exclaimed. “Even if they have to save all year around to be able to bring the whole family. It’s a music that connects with them, and makes them proud of who they are,” she added.
And the audience keeps coming back every year. It has now become a cross-generational yearly event with the children and grandchildren of the original audience attending and starting their own family tradition with Mariachi music. “It’s a love story between the largest population of Mexicans living outside of Mexico and the largest population of Mariachi musicians living outside of Mexico.”
But Mariachi music has expanded beyond Mexico and the U.S. Mariachi groups have formed all over the world including countries like Egypt, Croatia, Sweden, Aruba, Cuba, Spain, and several of the Latin American countries like Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.
Cuban born Rodri herself has adopted the Mexican heritage, and has made it her mission to bring the biggest and most renowned Mariachi to Mariachi USA, where the Mariachi is king. From the most revered groups like the Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan to the latest iteration of female mariachi groups like Las Reynas de Los Angeles, fans have enjoyed the music that is embraced around the world like. One of the most well known Japanese Mariachi singer is Junko Seki who has been singing Mexican “rancheras” (songs of the ranch) since the 80’s.
This year Junko Seki returns to the Mariachi USA’s stage to help celebrate their 25th Silver Anniversary along with noted giants Mariachi Cobre, Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlan, the female group Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, Mariachi Los Rey, Mariachi Mi Tierra and the beautiful dancers Mexican folk dancing troupe Folklorico Mi Tierra.
In and effort to help future generation continue the Mariachi tradition in the U.S., Rodri founded Mariachi USA Foundation in 1991. The Foundation provides young students access to mariachi music curriculum taught by some of the highest regarded musicians in the world. Under the Foundation’s purview Rodri also envisions a Mariachi Hall of Fame which would recognize mariachi music greats like the legendary Lucha Reyes and Grammy Award winning Nati Cano credited with popularizing mariachi music for the U.S. audiences at his then restaurant La Fonda in Los Angeles, California.
Mariachi USA is an event that celebrates the richness and history of Mariachi music which lives on generation after generation. Audiences have come to look forward to the event and to the finale which every year united the ensemble of over 100 and audience of over 17,000 in the sing-along of two Mariachi “anthems” songs, El Rey and Volver Volver, followed by a five minutes fireworks spectacular which is timed perfectly to the songs Viva Mexico and La Negra.
As Rodri is fond of saying, there is ”Nothing like it in the world”.
Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., L.A. 6 p.m. Sat. Ticket prices vary. (323) 850-2000. For more info CLICK HERE