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Arts, Music and Dance

Carlos Chavez, Tijuana Brass, Mexican popular music, Ballet Folklorico, National Symphony

Music and dance were affected by the same European and indigenous currents that influenced painting and literature. The Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, a folk-dance group based in Mexico City, has integrated folk music with classical music. The group tours the world and works to preserve authentic folk dance in Mexico.

Carlos Chavez, Mexico’s best-known composer, is remembered for his Sinfonia India (1935). A close friend of the painter Diego Rivera, Chavez wanted to employ Native American themes in his music, just as the Mexican muralists had done with their paintings. Chavez introduced 82 Mexican works as conductor of the National Symphony from 1928 to 1949. He studied piano under Manuel M. Ponce, another major figure in Mexican music, who founded the Academy of Music in Mexico City in 1911. Ponce served as a mentor to generations of Mexican musicians. Another figure in Mexican music, originally from Spain, was Rodolfo Halffter, who did much to encourage new students as a professor at the National Conservatory of Music.

Mexican popular music, in the form of ballads and sidewalk performances, has contributed significantly to popular music in the United States. Examples include “La Bamba,” a Mexican folk song that was recorded in a rock-and-roll style by American singer Ritchie Valens in 1959, and the work of the Tijuana Brass in the 1960s and 1970s.

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