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Festival to highlight Mexican huapango music

Written by , published May 28, 2014

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A new grassroots festival is launching in Austin to showcase a relatively little-known style of Mexican folk music called huapango

Taking place this Saturday, Huapango Sin Fronteras will feature bands from Texas, Illinois, and California playing huapango arribeño and huapango huasteco. The string-based music comes from the Mexican states of Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, and Queretero.

Here’s a YouTube video to give an idea of what the music is like: 

Festival organizers say Huapango Sin Fronteras is the first festival of its kind to feature huapango bands based in the United States, although most of the musicians are natives of Mexico.

Raul Orduña, an Austin musician who’s organizing the festival, says his goal is to establish a solid foundation for huapango music in Texas by introducing the style to a wider audience, including younger generations that will help sustain the music into the future. “The idea is to bring huapango not only to Hispanic communities, but to all communities,” Raul says.

Huapango is a subset of the larger Mexican style of music known as son, which covers various styles of string music from Mexico, says Alex Chavez, an assistant professor of anthropology and Latino Studies at Notre Dame. The most well-known style of son is mariachi.

Huapango arribeño bands are made up of four members, including a violin (sometimes two), a Mexican guitarra, and a smaller guitar called a jarana or vihuela.

Traditionally, huapango arribeño bands play at dances with two bands situated on either side of a plaza or dance floor. The two bands perform in a topada, or collision, in which they trade songs. The singers freestyle their poetic lyrics based on the setting and events of the evening. Dances start in the evening in continue overnight and into the next morning.

Huapango Sin Fronteras will take place from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday at Salon Plaza R3 (a rodeo facility) at 7704 FM 973 in Austin. There will be music throughout the day, traditional foods, and children’s activities. A topada will start at 10 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 at the door.  

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