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Heritage Month Special: Mexican Music Then And Now


by Felix Contreras

Three portraits of musicians and a filmmaker who illuminate distinct forms of Mexican music expression.

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Every month is Latino Heritage Month on Alt.Latino, but I like to set aside some special features from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 to celebrate.

Alt.Latino is an NPR podcast spotlighting the world of Latinx arts and culture through music, stories, and conversation. Learn more here.

We’re kicking things off with a trio of interviews with musicians and a filmmaker who have three very distinct connections to Mexican music.

The members of Mariachi Herencia de Mexico are teenagers, but dedicated to preserving the culture and music of mariachi in their home town of Chicago.

Chris Strachwitz photographed in 2000. This photo is part a series by Tom Pich. He's has traveled across the United States for the last 23 years taking portraits of NEA National Heritage Fellows in their homes, studios, and at sites that most vividly reflect the essence of their artwork. Photo: Tom Pich courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Chris Strachwitz photographed in 2000. This photo is part a series by Tom Pich. He’s has traveled across the United States for the last 23 years taking portraits of NEA National Heritage Fellows in their homes, studios, and at sites that most vividly reflect the essence of their artwork.
Photo: Tom Pich courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Chris Strachwitz is a legendary record producer who has spent almost 50 years preserving various forms of folk music in the U.S. through Arhoolie Records. In the late ’70s, he worked with acclaimed filmmaker Les Bank on the documentary Chulas Fronteras, which remains one of the purest documentations of Chicano life here in the U.S. The movie didn’t receive wide distribution when it was released, but can now be found on DVD, Blue-ray and streaming services.

Rounding out the coverage this week is a conversation with Omar Apollo, a young guitarist, composer, and vocalist from Indiana with roots in Mexico. During our conversation, he cites both Sly Stone and Mexican mariachi vocalist Pedro Infante as inspirations. It doesn’t get more bicultural than that.

All of that and this is just week one of a month-long celebration!

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
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