Making Beautiful Melodies: The History of Mariachi Music

At El Mariachi, We Absolutely Love the Mariachi

There is something so very special about mariachi music. It’s an amazing form of live entertainment. Just picture it: A roaming band of mariachi, singing and playing sweet music under a young lady’s window in the summer moonlight. They bring her a memento of her admirer’s love and affection with melody, harmony, and masterful instrumentation. It’s a universally recognizable impression, yet one that is uniquely Mexican.

Many, many people love live entertainment performed by an authentic Mexican mariachi group. What can we say? Here at El Mariachi, we’re big fans; it’s literally right there in our name. This month, let’s take a look at the history and traditions of mariachi music.

The Rich History of Melodious Mariachi Music

The mariachi own a very rich history in Mexico, having woven themselves into the cultural tapestry of the entire country. The term “mariachi” can refer to the individual musicians themselves, to the ensemble, or to the genre of music. The origin of the word “mariachi” is actually unknown and widely disputed. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the mariachi first appeared in the late 1700s in the west-central region of Mexico. When mariachi bands began forming, they only featured stringed instruments, such as guitars and harps. At first, they also dressed differently from the ubiquitous image we have of the mariachi. These early musicians simply dressed in what they had – typical peasant clothes, which generally would be white shirts and pants and huarache sandals.

According to, these early bands of mariachi played a type of music called the “son,” which was the popular music in that time and place. It was an amalgamation of folk music from Spain, Africa, and Mexico. Different regions of the country had different variations of the son, including the “son jalisciense” from Jalisco, the “son veracruzano” from Veracruz, and the “son huasteco” from the northeastern regions of the country.

The mariachi band began to evolve over the ensuing years. Despite its humble beginnings as a string ensemble that only played instrumental music, the mariachi soon added vocal performances and other instruments, such as violins and trumpets. The performers also changed their clothing in the early 1900s to their now widely-recognized attire, the “traje de charro.” This outfit resembled the clothing of the cowboys of Jalisco. It consisted of a sombrero, a short jacket, a wide bow tie, decorated trousers, and boots. Initially, the mariachi band was an all-male ensemble, but beginning in the 1940s, women started playing mariachi music, too.

The Modern Mariachi Band

The modern mariachi band has essentially remained true to its traditions. The ensemble now consists of any combination of a vihuela, a five-string guitar; a guitarron, a bigger, fretless bass guitar; a standard acoustic guitar; violins; and trumpets. While not a stringed instrument, trumpets have become essential pieces of the musical styling of the modern mariachi band.

In Mexican culture, mariachis are often used to celebrate special occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries. This tradition came from the past practice of hiring the mariachi to profess your love. In Mexico’s history, parents did not allow teen boys and teen girls to be with each other, so young men would send the mariachi to sing a love song to their sweethearts. Now, it is not so unusual to wake up to the sound of mariachi singing under your window on special days in Mexico. People also hire mariachi for weddings, baptisms, and funerals. Sometimes, the late loved one will even leave a list of songs they want the mariachi to perform at their grave. Some Mexican priests have even incorporated mariachi music into the Roman Catholic Mass, with the “Misa Panamericana.”

We mentioned before that at its inception, mariachi bands were all male, but females started joining groups in the 1940s. Today, there are many all-female mariachi bands. These women also perform in their own matching uniforms, a twist on the “traje de charro.” This outfit consists of a long, brightly colored skirt, an embroidered blouse, and a “rebozo,” which is a shawl across their shoulders.

Join Us for Our Monthly Mariachi Night at El Mariachi

As we wrote earlier, we are big fans of the mariachi here at El Mariachi. We just love the tradition and the music, and we know that you will, too. To promote and carry on the tradition to new ears, new eyes, and new generations, we offer live entertainment by a mariachi band on the third Monday of every month. Think about it; how can you beat delicious Mexican cuisine at an authentic Mexican restaurant with exceptional live entertainment? It’s all right here in the Mid-Ohio Valley at El Mariachi.

People come back to us again and again from all over Parkersburg, WV, and beyond because they know we offer the most amazing menu. We have a dish for every member of your family or every one of your friends. We also offer 14 flavors of margaritas. Call us today to make your reservation or to order takeout. You can also order online so that your delicious takeout is ready to go when you arrive at our door.

We can also cater any event in the Mid-Ohio Valley, from birthday parties to corporate gatherings. Remember to ask us how your organization can benefit from our fundraising opportunities, too.

Tasty Mexican cuisine, margaritas, live entertainment, and good times at an authentic Mexican restaurant: it’s all here at El Mariachi in Parkersburg, WV. Grab your family and friends and visit us tonight. We have a meal waiting just for you.

For more information on our live mariachi nights or our menu of authentic Mexican cuisine, call El Mariachi in Parkersburg, WV, at (304) 420-9005. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook, too!