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January 24, 2013 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-01-24

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, January 24, 2013 - 3B

From Page 1B
Soaring, symphonic instru-
mentals punctuated by some of
the world's most talented, clas-
sically trained vocalists fill a
concert hall. This isn't the proto-
typical image of a mariachi per-
formance, but it's what Mariachi
Vargas de Tecalitlin has been
delivering for 115 years, earning
them the title, "The Best Mariachi
Band in the World." On Jan. 27,
University Musical Society will
present Mariachi Vargas at Hill
Auditorium, two years after an
incredibly popular 2010 perfor-
mance in Ann Arbor.
Mariachi Vargas was born in
1897 in the small city of Tecalit-
ldn, which is nestled in Southern
Jalisco. It was one of the first
ensembles playing what is recog-
nized as modern mariachi and has
evolved through five generations.
Mariachi music was initially a
type of Mexican folk music, dat-
ing back to the 1860s. Mariachi
Vargas is credited for advancing
mariachi as an art form and for
setting the standard for all other
bands in the genre. Famed Mexi-
can composer Ruben Fuentes has
been responsible for the band's
artistic direction since the 1950s.
Mariachi Vargas was originally
composed of four elements: a gui-
tar, two violins and a harp. Fuentes
added a bass guitar, or a guitarr6n,
and a trumpet, creating a stronger
sound. This led former Mexican
President Adolfo Lopez Mateos to
coin the phrase, "El Mejor Maria-
chi del Mundo" in the band's third
generation. Two generations later,
Mariachi Vargas is still recognized
as one of the greatest mariachi
bands in existence.
Cynthia Mufioz represents
Mariachi Vargas in the United
States, but her story with the
band began when she was a mid-
dle school student, completely
infatuated with mariachi music.
In 1979, Munoz participated in
a San Antonio mariachi festival,
the first of its kind, headlined by
Mariachi Vargas.
Mufioz said she fell in love with
the band and attended the festival
habitually for the next five years.
What followed was a tO-year
hiatus when no mariachi festivals
were held in San Antonio. During
that time, Munoz studied adver-
tising, specializing in Hispanic
markets and eventually founded
her own company, Mufioz Public
Relations, which she used to res-
urrect the idea of a festival head-
lined by Mariachi Vargas. She has
been producing the Mariachi Var-
gas Extravaganza in San Antonio
for 18 years and has also started
mariachi festivals in other parts
of Texas.
"Every time I produce a con-
cert of theirs or I see one of their
shows, I feel that same level of
excitement that I did when I was
13 years old," Mufioz said. "Their
music is just exhilarating. It
brings out this feeling of incred-
ible pride for the culture."
Mariachi music permeates
many facets of Hispanic culture.
Mariachi bands perform during
La Posada, a Christmas festival
that reenacts Mary and Joseph
searching for lodging. Bands and
revelers go house to house and
play traditional holiday songs.
It is also popular for mariachi
bands to serenade mothers on
the eve of Mother's Day. The bal-

lad "Oh Madre Querida" - or "Oh
Beloved Mother" - is often used

Week decoded

Texas State University student Karen Zavala will open for Mariachi Vargas at their Hill performance.

to express adoration for amother. attending The National Conserva-
Mufiozexplained that mariachi tory of Music of Mexico in Mexico
music is so popular among young City, where he studied voice and
people in south Texas because it violin. His father invited him to be
offers them a rare chance to con- part of Mariachi Vargas in 1993.
nect with their heritage. Maria- Even with Martinez Jr.'s exten-
chi music has been around for sive musical training and legacy
many generations - some of the with the band, his position was
songs played by modern ensem- not guaranteed. All new members
bles date back 100 years - which undergo a rigorous trial period of
may explain why it attracts such a up to a year, during which their
wide following. membership can be revoked. Each
"It's quite common here in San musician in Mariachi Vargas'
Antonio to see someone attend a 13-member lineup proved himself
concert with both their parents to be truly a master of his craft
and their kids," Munoz said. "So before becoming a fixture in the
many of the songs are about the ensemble.
love of Mexico; it's folklore music. Martinez Jr. is also passion-
They also teach the kids about ate about helping mariachi thrive
cultural traditions." through new generations of per-
formers. Mariachi Vargas de
Tecalitlan holds workshops for
students of music, where every
M ariachi Vargas instrument, including vocals, is
began in 1897 taught by an expert performer.
The group further demonstrates
and continues their commitment to mentoring
young artists by selecting rising
to evolve, stars to perform with them.
At the 2012 Mariachi Vargas
Extravaganza, the band named
Karen Zavala, a Texas State Uni-
Munoz said she spent her entire versity student, the "Best Maria-
childhood playing at weddings; chi Vocalist in the U.S.." She will
quinceafieras and funerals. Yes, be opening for Mariachi Vargas
mariachi bands are even present at Hill Auditorium. Zavala recalls
at somber occasions like funerals, growing up idolizing the band.
which shatters the stereotype of "I remember the first time I
a chipper, vapid band playing at a saw them in concert, my sopho-
Mexican restaurant. There is a set more year," Zavala said. "Every-
of mariachi songs meant to help one is talented, everyone is good
people mourn loved ones who at what they play and then when
have died. On Dia de los Muertos, they sing, oh boy, it's amazing. I've
it is traditional to play mariachi always looked up to them."
music at the graves of family and "When you know you're select-
friends, even if they have been ed by the members, it's an even
gone for many years. greater honor," Zavala said. "It's
Mariachi connects its players not just any award. The members
to generations long past and also that are known as the best in the
unites current generations. It is world chose you and saw some-
very common for a mariachi band . thing special. in you. That's the
to be made up of many members of biggest prize I got."
the same family. Mariachi Vargas Munoz noted that mariachi
de Tecalitlan is no exception. music and its education are more
Jose Pepe Martinez Jr. is a respected in the United States
vocalist and violinist in Mariachi than in its own country of origin,
Vargas and the son of the band's but perhaps this is beginning to
musical director, Jose Pepe Mar- change. In 2012, Mariachi Vargas
tinez Sr. participated in the inauguration
"My maternal and paternal of.a school of mariachi in Mexico.
grandfathers were part of Maria- Not content with simply being
chi Vargas in its first and second the best in their genre, Mariachi
generation, then my father, now Vargas continues to innovate,
me," Martinez Jr. said in a trans- expanding the boundaries of
lated interview. "They inspired mariachi music into new terri-
me since I was a child. I've been tory. In 2010, the Houston Grand
listening to mariachi my whole Opera commissioned Jose Pepe
life. Growing up, it was all around Martinez Sr. to create the world's
me; I could feel it in my bones." first mariachi opera. The pro-,
Martinez Jr. began studying duction, "To Cross the Face of
music at age seven, eventually the Moon," centers on an elderly

Mexican-American immigrant
who reveals to his children on his
deathbed that he left behind a fam-
ily in Mexico. His dying wish is to
be reunited with them.
Mariachi Vargas shared the
stage with members of the Hous-
ton Grand Opera, performing their
original songs.
As unlikely as it seems, Munoz
believes that there is a lot of cross-
over between opera and mariachi.
Many young people who study
mariachi also study opera, she
"When you come to the show,
you'll think this is Spanish opera,"
Mufioz said. "They play tradition-
al mariachi music, but it's heavily
influenced by operatic and sym-
phonic styles."
Truly Render, press and mar-
keting manager for UMS said the
2010 Mariachi Vargas show was
her first concert with UMS and
also one of the best she's ever seen.
"The audience was just as much
a part of that experience as the art-
ists were," Render said."There was
a really beautiful moment when
one of the audience members, an
older gentlemen, was singing along
and one of the singers from the
ensemble noticed him singing, and
they gave him the microphone and
he sang the whole song." .
Extending the theme of com-
munity, AARP is sponsoring a bus
that will bring residents of Latin
Americans for Social and Econom-
ic Development Senior Center in
Detroit to the concert. Many of the
residents are first generation Mex-
ican immigrants, who are very
excited to see Mariachi Vargas.
Gabriela Boyd, a senior citizen
who works for LA SED will be in
attendance. Boyd described what
mariachi music means to her.
"It's a representation of life
and enthusiasm about life," Boyd
said. "It is very happy, very rhyth-
mic. For us it's like vibrating with
them. It's part of our culture since
we're born. It's really a wonderful
occasion to experience that."
The Jan.27 performance at Hill
Auditorium is sure to transcend
stereotypes and showcase maria-
chi's vivid history, present stars
and up-and-coming talents.
"Youhave 13 phenomenal musi-
cians and some of the best vocal-
ists in the world that are playing
instruments that seem like it is
an entire symphony," Munoz
said. "It's very beautiful, it's very
upscale and it really does present
the best of the Hispanic culture."
-Todd Needle contributed to
this report.

ta the most wonderful time
of the year! No, not Christ-
mas: restaurant week. I
hesitate to call myself a seasoned
vet of this foodtastic event, so
I'll opt for
the humbler
idiom of "this
ain't myfirst "
New to
acquire your NATHAN
parent's credit
card? Throw- WOOD
a pity party
because you couldn't keep up with
that "healthier you" New Year's
resolution? No matter your situ-
ation, there's a restaurant week
option out there for you. So, to
help you on your quest for reason-
ably priced, high-class cuisine,
I've compiled this simple guide to
restaurant week musts and busts.
MUST: Logan
Eateries like this are exactly
what make restaurant week such
a cool event. How often do col-
lege students geta chance to eat
Zagat-rated food at one of the
top 10 restaurants in the Metro
Detroit area? With the price of a
dinner for two normally creeping
toward triple digits, I'm guess-
ing the answer is "not often."
But during restaurant week, the
opportunity is there.
Boasting "New American
Cuisine," ahot (albeit ambigu-
ous) genre in the culinary world
right now, Logan has a great
menu lineup for restaurant week
that I'm more than excited to
check out. For the first course; I
recommend the crab and avocado
parfait; the Logan salad - fea-
turing an undoubtedly complex
30-year-old sherry vinaigrette
- should be your second-course
choice. All options for the main
course are winners, though I'll
probably opt for the seared sea
scallops with aromatic Thai
coconut milk sauce.
At $28 for a three-course meal
from this highly esteemed estab-
lishment, we salute you, Ann
Arbor Restaurant Week, for get-
ting college kids and good food
together again.
Other MUSTS: Cafe6Felix
(five courses for $28!), The
Ravens Club (huge variety),
Pacific Rim (an Asian-fusion
heaven, though Chef Du
wouldn't like it to be referred to
as such) and Mani Osteria & Bar
(a large selection of nationally
recognized pizza).
BUST: The Blue Nile
Inevitably, there comes a time
- in the natural course of get-
ting to know new people - when
the rules of social interaction
dictate that I divulge my job here
at the Daily. Also inevitably, the
response I hear is always the
same: "Food critic? Great! What's
the best restaurant in Ann
Arbor?" After a quick smile and

light laugh, my political answer
(as I really don't answer their
question at all) is, "You should
try the Blue Nile!"
You see, the Blue Nile is cer-
tainly not the best restaurant in
Ann Arbor, but for most people,
it offers a completely new din-
ing experience. My first taste of
Ethiopian food came from the
Blue Nile, and I have a feeling
that this experience is not an
uncommon one
But beyond that, the food here
is fantastic. It'swarm, hearty,
saturated to the max with herbs
and spices and surprisingly
healthy. I don't want to give too
much away, but I do have a couple
of things that I'll ask you to keep
in mind: One, you'll never miss
the meat with their vegetarian
options, and two, make sure to
order an Ethiopian teasor coffee
to sip on while you wait for your
Musts, busts
and much more!
This restaurant is a must at
lunch (two people eat for $15) but
a bust at dinner ($28 per person
for a drink, first course and a des-
sert that you don't really want).
NER BUSTS: Blue Tractor (the
food you would normally order at
an even better price), Gratzi (try
the gnocchi tartuffata as part of
your three-course lunch), Shali-
mar (the mango shrimp is where
it's at) and Jolly Pumpkin (I tend
to prefer their lunch offerings
over their dinner, anyway - go
for the lamb burger).
BUST: bd's Mongolian Grill
Notthat I have anything
against being overcharged to
stand in line and have my bowl of
stir-fry pulverized by obnoxious,
loudly clanged swords and served
with overcooked rice, but there
really are much better restaurant
week options: 54, to be exact.
The price is not much cheaper
than any other week of the year,
and the food is no less mediocre.
Maybe McDonald's should be
allowed to join restaurant week,
Other BUSTS: Grand Traverse
Pie Company (better suited for
those I-need-to-eat-now-or-I'm-
going-to-die momentsathan res-
taurant week), The Chop House
(the menu'sworst offerings come
together to lure in restaurant
weeknoobs) and Real Seafood
Company (take note that it's not
called the Fresh Seafood Com-
And just so you know that I
really do walk mytalk, I'll per-
sonally be hitting up Logan and
The Ravens Club thisweek, and I
hope to see you there! bd's Mon-
golian Grill? Not so much.
Wood is eating all of the
food at Logan. To join, e-mail

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