It might not be known to everyone, but one of the main things that a Colombian looks forward to at a party with relatives, at a birthday party, or even just if a guy did something wrong and wants to say he is sorry in an epic way, is a mariachi band! It is a part of the Mexican heritage that we have adopted, begets a great number of joyful tears and awkward smiles and has also helped establish much of the traditional musical heritage in Colombia.
Luckily in the cultural center of Bogotá, Chapinero, there is a street filled with Mariachis: men and women beautifully attired in the most spectacular clothes, hats and belts who are willing to go anywhere you want to please you with their instruments, deep voices and heartfelt songs that can make you cry at the sound of the first verse. They are hardworking musicians that stay up from dusk till dawn making a living doing what they love to do. This is the story of a mariachi in Bogotá.
RAFAEL, EL MARIACHI RANCHERO
Rafael Noguera is a well-known mariachi in the area. He received me wearing a white suit with golden details and a bright blue tie that says “el ranchero”. He has been in the music business since he was 4 years old, playing the guitar thanks to his roots in Santander, a department in the north of Colombia. He started with an old guitar with one or two strings and a board; after that, he started learning other types of music and working with musical trios first playing traditional Colombian music and then Mexican music. Now, Rafael has over 34 years of experience.
A regular day for him starts early at 6:00 am, and it lasts until 5 pm receiving clients in his office, scheduling events and upcoming shows, and rehearsing. On the night shift, he can keep working all night from party to party, from a quienceañera and someone’s birthday to a regular event that requires his services. He goes from street to street, from event to event, trying to rest the next day to then start all over again. Most Mariachis work at night and usually in groups because a mariachi band is formed by at least 6 people with several kinds of instruments and, of course, a singer that shakes the strings of your soul. Thankfully, Rafael says that Colombia is a country that welcomes Mexican music, especially outside of the cities, which means that it is appealing music for every sort of audience. What he likes the most about being a musician playing Mexican music is making people happy because he has music in his veins and those inclinations come from his ancestors.
The zone known as La Playita (the small beach) is located on 55th Street with 14th. It is always filled with musicians who study and learn how to play music and please clients. Every new musician that wants to follow the path of Mexican music can approach the older musicians and learn from them. This street is located right next to the Transmilenio 57th Street Station and has bright and quite informative signs showing the mariachis and the services they provide. At night you can see them rehearsing in the street, in bars nearby, and in their offices. The zone is also frequented by Mexican people and musicians who interact with mariachi in Bogotá, have a shot of tequila and mingle with locals.
This place represents the magic of a tradition that most Bogotans have experienced since their birth, knowing many songs by heart and singing every lyric. This small treasure still hides in the streets of Bogotá and it’s open to anyone who wants to enjoy a good night of Mexican music and maybe a shot of tequila! You can learn more about Colombia’s traditional music here.
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