"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Creativity
November 5, 2011

Oaxaca’s Soundtrack To Dia de los Muertos

I’ve heard a lot of great music on this trip. A little bit of it was Mariachi, but most has been either upbeat Banda (Brass Band parade music), or heartfelt guitar driven Boleros (and some Tangos). There’s been no bigger surprise, for me, than the quality and energy of the Oaxacan Brass marching bands. Funky, […]

Banda Horn Players and Locals in Costume

I’ve heard a lot of great music on this trip. A little bit of it was Mariachi, but most has been either upbeat Banda (Brass Band parade music), or heartfelt guitar driven Boleros (and some Tangos).

Banda Trumpet Player in Guadalupe Etla

There’s been no bigger surprise, for me, than the quality and energy of the Oaxacan Brass marching bands. Funky, energetic and upbeat, the bands play their Banda music with great humour and intensity. At times it felt like I was listening to sharp New Orleans second line!

Marching in Oaxaca Town Centre

Parades are an integral part of the day of the dead celebrations. They are organised by different civic groups, in the centre of town and also in outer villages. All the parades feature people in Dia de los Muertos costumes (especially lots of kids dressed up). There’s plenty of dancing, lots of similes and a strong feeling of community.

Taking A Call Between Solos

By contrast, the music for graveside vigils of Dia de los Muertos is more reflective and sombre, though often with a degree of cheerfulness and joy that can be disarming.

There are some (excellent) hired musicians who perform in the graveyards. But, more often, it is family members who play. Many of the tunes are ballads of longing and love – sometimes they are favourite songs of the deceased, sometimes they are expressions of those who are there to remember.

One family of brothers I spoke to were were remembering a sibling that had died young. At one point, between songs, one of the brothers poured a glass of Mezcal over the grave and said, “because if you were still with us, you’d be old enough to drink now.”

Songs For A Loved One

It’s tempting to close with comments about how good Oaxaca’s musicians are. But, that kind of misses the point. What’s impressed me most is the spirit and passion in the playing. This place really has a living music culture, songs (and the memory of singing and playing those songs) is weaved into the fabric of life here. Perhaps it should be no surprise then that there is so much wonderful music played during this season that commemorates the full arc of human life and emotion.

Play That Horn

Responses
A friend... 11 years ago

For those who has not meet with Fernando (yet);

Fernando is a great guy with an intellectual mind, deep knowledge about different cultures and heart with full of peace and humanity.

It was a great pleasure to meet you Fernando. I enjoyed everybit of it. Your creative photography and particularly the photos from Day of the Dead celebrations will keep my memories alive that I had with you. Looking forward to meet you again.

Greetings,
E.

    Fernando Gros 11 years ago

    Enis – thank you my friend, those are very kind words. I learnt a lot from you and truly hope we can create images together again.

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