Rock ‘n Roll and Mariachi music are two very different genres with distinct origins, instrumentation, and cultural contexts.
Mariachi is a quintessential folk music ensemble that traditionally includes four male musicians in elegant outfits who play the music of Mexico. Rock ‘n Roll is associated with American youth culture, rebellion, and anti-establishment sentiments. Mariachi music, on the other hand, is deeply rooted in Mexican culture, history, and traditions. It is often associated with celebrations and special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, and national holidays.
While Rock ‘n Roll has evolved and diversified, giving rise to sub-genres such as hard rock, heavy metal, punk rock, grunge, and alternative rock, among others, it is still a very different genre of music from Mariachi.
In Phoenix, Arizona, Alice Cooper's The Rock Teen Center shows us how two very different music genres can share a stage to celebrate musical talent, performance energy, emotional impact, and cultural significance.
The Evolution of Music
In the latest episode of the Edge Factor Show, Juxtapose tells a cinematic story meant to inspire viewers. It explores themes related to the music industry specifically, but also demonstrates how trying new things and stepping outside of our comfort zone can lead to unexpected success.
Female Led Mariachi Band
Mariachi music has a long and rich history that dates back to the 19th century in Mexico. Traditionally, mariachi music was performed exclusively by men, with women being excluded from the genre due to cultural and social norms. However, in recent years, the role of women in mariachi music has changed, and the genre has become more inclusive.
The inclusion of women in mariachi music has not been without its challenges. Initially, some people within the industry were resistant to the idea of women performing mariachi music, arguing that it went against tradition. However, over time, attitudes have changed, and many people have come to appreciate women’s contributions to the genre. Today, there are many successful and highly respected female mariachi performers, like Hillary Clara, a violinist, and singer in the women-led Mariachi band, featured in Juxtapose.
The Diversity of Rock n Roll
Rock ‘n Roll is a genre of popular music that emerged in the United States in the 1950s. It is characterized by its heavy use of electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, and vocals with a driving, energetic beat. The origins of Rock ‘n Roll can be traced back to rhythm and blues and country music, which were popular among Black American and rural white audiences alike.
In the 1970s, Alice Cooper took the Rock ‘n Roll world by storm. The name seemed gentle and wholesome, a stark contrast to the look and sound of the band, so the name captured the sardonic intentions of the band.
Alice Cooper’s experimental psychedelic hard rock sound and shocking performances pushed the edge of social acceptance. Their performance included vaudeville, horror, boa constrictors, and even flying chickens. Parents hated them and teens loved them. In 1973, Alice Cooper was so famous they made the cover of Forbes magazine.
They disbanded in 1974, but their frontman continued to perform and tour at over 200 shows every year, pushing performances with macabre theatrics to shock fans. But this stage persona is not the real Alice Cooper.
Where Rock ‘n Roll Meets Mariachi
Solid Rock Teen Centers is a non-profit organization that was founded by Alice Cooper in 1995 in Phoenix, Arizona. The organization aims to provide a safe and engaging environment for teenagers where they can learn, grow, and express themselves through music, art, and other creative activities. The centre provides a space for youth to be inspired to explore their passions, their talents and discover how it could lead them to future opportunities and future success.
Over the years, they have had a profound impact on the lives of thousands of young people in Arizona. By providing a safe and nurturing environment where young people can explore their creativity and express themselves, the organization has helped build stronger, more vibrant communities throughout the state.
Proof is in the Pudding is an annual competition that features 300+ musicians ages 12-25 from all music genres. It has become the most well-known music competition in Arizona. However, the last thing the judges expected was a mariachi band to compete.
The Alice Cooper Solid Rock Teen Center Music Competition provides a valuable platform for young musicians to showcase their talent and connect with the community, and the inclusion of diverse genres and styles of music, such as the all-woman mariachi band, only adds to its impact.
The Magic Happens Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Mariachi was a big part of Hillary Clara’s family’s culture. When Hillary was taught about music, there was always a connection to their cultural music. Hillary’s love of music goes back to when she was only five years old, when a piano teacher recognized her talent. From an early age, music was a big part of her life. She understood that for her parents it was important that she be connected to her culture and mariachi did just that.
Hillary’s first mariachi performance was at 12 years old. Her passion for music, combined with her culture, made for opportunities to perform at weddings and birthday parties and eventually led to taking on larger gigs and competitions. Mariachi provided a way to continue the cultural traditions and inspired her love for music. Then came the invitation that would bring Hillary and the woman-led mariachi band out of their comfort zone.
They were used to performing for people who had an appreciation for the Mexican cultural music they could deliver. It took some convincing and a team vote for Hillary Clara to agree to enter the Proof is in the Pudding competition. When they took up the challenge to compete, they were stretched out of their comfort zone. Competitions are a big deal for all musicians. Hillary and her team of musicians knew this, so agreeing to participate in the competition was a big commitment, and they had to be up for the challenge.
Winning or even participating in a competition can give musicians exposure to a wider audience, including music industry professionals such as agents, managers, and record labels. This exposure can lead to new opportunities for gigs, collaborations, and other career advancements. Competitions are a great way for musicians to challenge themselves and push their skills to the next level. The preparation for a competition often involves a significant amount of practice and discipline which can help musicians improve their technique and musicality.
“They played violin phenomenally well, they played mariachi guitar extremely well. They had performers from ages 12 - 22, they had a mix of female and male vocals. Because they performed many, many times, they were poised, they were elegant, they were dressed to the nines and they were proud of their heritage.” Randy Spencer, Consultant & Community Partnerships, Solid Rock Teen Centers.
Music Has No Limits
The women-led mariachi band surprised the judges by competing and giving exceptional performances. But the biggest surprise came to the band themselves when they not only advanced through the stages – they went on to win the competition!
“I think it’s so great that they won because it showed that it had nothing to do with it’s got to be rock, it’s got to be cool…. it really was about who is the best at what they did. They were really top of the line.” - Alice Cooper
They won because they were great musicians. They were disciplined, well-rehearsed, and passionate about their music, and their culture, and it showed in their performance.
The Godfather of shock rock creates teen centers to help kids. A young women-led mariachi band winning a rock competition – this certainly breaks away from expectations.
Music is a constantly evolving art form, with diverse cultures, genres, new technologies, and individual expression. There are no limits to the quality of creativity, expression, and emotional resonance that music can reach.
Premium Edge Factor members can watch this story unfold in the new cinematic film, Juxtapose.
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