Mexican music stirs the soul

Emily Lam

It was a rare and wonderful sight - a crowded theatre, with everyone clapping and singing along to the infectious rhythms of a Latin band.

Stirring this vibrant atmosphere at the University of Hong Kong, was the Mexican group Trebol.

Exponents of traditional mariachi, the six-piece all-male group played unusual instruments like the vihuela, guitarron and requinto.

Trebol, from Guadalajara, Mexico's mariachi music capital, were in traditional outfits - the big, embroidered sombrero, white shirts, and silver-medalled black trousers.

Music promoter Beatrice Cessac of the Andes Art Company, said in Mexico, people did not separate music and dance.

'They are part of daily life, the very essence of Mexican culture.

'Mariachi is the real music of Mexico. It awakens people's feelings and makes them move or even sometimes cry,' Ms Cessac said.

'People from Latin America are much more open than Asians, and they express it in their music.' Ms Cessac said audiences were encouraged to dance, sing, laugh or even cry when they listened to the music, because it was a way of unlocking their feelings.

And indeed mariachi seemed to get the student audience moving.

Ms Cessac, who brought Trebol to Hong Kong in January, said she wanted to share the excitement of Latin music with local audiences.

But it was not always that easy.

Hong Kong people were very conservative about accepting new types of music, particularly world music, Ms Cessac said.

Few people had ever heard of Mexican music. Most were only familiar or keen on Canto-pop, classical music, jazz, or Chinese opera.

'They are too hard-working with no time to absorb outside cultures. They can't appreciate the real thing.

'People say 'just put a Mexican hat on a musician and you will have Mexican music'.

'I'm not interested in that. Trebol plays authentic mariachi and is expressing the true culture of Mexico.' Ms Cessac said Asians were very shy and introverted and found it hard to let go to music.

'They are shy to sing aloud or come forward to dance. It takes time to change, but this music has the power to release emotions.

'Accepting new things can often widen our views,' Ms Cessac said.