By Luis Reyes 6/26/2012
On Saturday June 23,2012, the Mariachi USA Festival at the world famous Hollywood Bowl permeated the air and the surrounding hills with the intoxicating sounds of Mariachi music. Now in its 23rd year founded by host and M.C., Rodri Rodriguez, the festival, featuring the best mariachi groups from the United States and Mexico, got off to an emotional start with the US national anthem played by a Mariachi Horn Trio. Rodri introduced the story of the next act who was a young boy who had entered her Mariachi Foundation and exclaimed that one day he would lead his own Mariachi band. Ten years later, he formed his own Mariachi band that is now called Mariachi Los Toros. His young, energetic group delivered a rousing set. Songstress, Jackie Ibarra, belted out a number of songs along with the two time Grammy winner, singer and accordion player, Michael Salgado, who moved the audience with a romantic ballad.
Another standout was long time Los Angeles favorite, Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez. Hernandez sang a Mariachi version of the classic tune, New York, New York, that would have made Frank Sinatra proud while showing the cultural vibrancy and fusion of the music.
Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlan from Jalisco, Guadalajara, had the crowd on its feet with its musical artistry which showcased several solos by various musicians. The Festival’s musical selections became an unofficial tribute to Mexican mariachi music icon, Vicente Fernandez, who had announced his retirement this year. Fernandez’s legacy and influence on several generations was clearly evident in the music being performed causing acknowledgement from the musicians and the audience recognition.
Mariachi Music is a fundamental part of Mexican heritage but is also a fusion of musical styles that come from all over the world. When Rodri Rodriguez first began this festival at the Bowl, she was told that she would be lucky to fill 2,000 of the Bowl’s 17,000 seats. The first year she sold out all the seats and had requests for 2,000 more seats. Twenty three years later, it has become a yearly event and the biggest Mariachi venue in the United States. In addition to the Festival, Rodriguez founded The Mariachi USA Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides Mariachi music education to school age kids throughout Los Angeles.
The family friendly event had the crowd listening, dancing and cheering to the music. The Mi Tierra Ballet Folklorico contributed their dance artistry. For the first time ever, Laura Sabino became the first female conductor of the fireworks for the Mariachi finale at the Festival which featured all of the festival’s performers. Sabino is also one of the first women Mariachi performers in the United States. An accomplished musician in her own right, Sabino is an NEA Master Teacher and is presently a music lecturer at UC Riverside.
If you have never been, I strongly urge for you to bring your family and attend the Mariachi USA Festival next year, on June 22 at The Hollywood Bowl for an unforgettable event.