Chances are you’ve celebrated Cinco de Mayo with tacos, cerveza, and Mexican music! It just sets the right atmosphere to pair Mariachi music with your margaritas.

But Mariachi (which comes from the orchestra, by the way), is just a small part of Mexico’s rich musical tradition! Other Mexican genres have origins in German polka and military bands.

Eddie G does a great job of explaining the difference and helping us appreciate the three major types of Mexican music: MariachiNorteño, and Banda.



1. Mariachi

Time to get up close and personal! Here’s Mariachi legend Vicente Fernandez singing “Por Tu Maldito Amor.” Notice the soaring strings and woodwinds in the background. Lyrics are translated in English for your enjoyment.



2. Norteño

Next, Norteño, which descends from German polka. Accordion is king in Norteño, accompanied by a 12 string guitar called bajo sexto (“bass sixth” or “lower sixth”), and sometimes bass and drum kit. It makes for great dancing with a 2-step or waltz.

Here are Los Cadetes de Linares in a polished performance showcasing the meandering accordion and rhythmic bajo sexto.



3. Banda

Finally, we have Banda. Coming from the Southern state of Sinaloa, it’s arguably the most foreign to American ears. Proud brass, sassy woodwinds, and pounding drums make it fast, rhythmic, and LOUD. Which makes sense, given that it has origins in military bands.

Here’s a powerfully tuneful performance by Banda Sinaloense MM:



Now that you have your bearings in Mexican music, be sure to share this with your friends, and tell them your favorite! Happy Cinco de Mayo!