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Mexico City is seeking to revive and formalize Mariachi Music

Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán

Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán

MEXICO CITY (AP) — In the golden age of mariachi, thousands of music lovers would crowd into theaters and fancy restaurants or fill the Plaza Garibaldi in the heart of the capital just to hear their favorite tunes played on guitar and violin. On a recent evening in the same plaza, that golden age was a distant memory.

Roving bands of musicians chased down cars on one of the city’s busiest avenues, leaning into windows to bargain over the price of a song. Black-clad musicians in cowboy boots then assembled ragtag groups that played out of tune while singers hoarsely belted out mournful ballads about love and heartbreak.

The aching music may remain one of Mexico’s top cultural exports, by which the country is known worldwide, but its fortunes have fallen in its homeland, with few well-trained musicians and few decent venues to play in.

A new mariachi school in Mexico City is seeking to revive a music that has lost ground over the years and that sometimes seems relegated to commercial jingles and elevator Muzak. Called the Mariachi School Ollin Yoliztli, meaning life and movement in indigenous Nahautl, the school teaches folk bands how to play professionally while grooming a new generation of songwriters and composers.

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