Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Corridos at the Folklife Festival

On March 25th, 2009 I wrote a post about the U.S. Border Patrol commissioning Spanish corridos to deter immigration. This past month at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, I got a chance to chat with Aldalberto "Don Beto" Cruz Alvarez and Jesus Garcia who are corridos musicians and performed in this summer's Las Americas section.

Don Beto Cruz is 84 years old and has been playing traditional music since he was a child. He is accompanied by Jesus Garcia, a younger generation musician who has been learning Don Beto's vast repertory of songs. At the festival, they presented corridos as a narrative song form that has traditionally acted almost like a newspaper, reporting real events, and expressing sentiments that could be interpreted as subversive and rebellious. When I asked them to share their thoughts about the U.S. Border's migra-corridos they had an interesting reaction. They were not upset that a traditional song form was being packaged and sold to push a government agenda. If anything, they simply smiled and seemed like they were up for the challenge.

Jesus Garcia:
Corridos are about telling the truth. They can act as an ongoing conversation.

Someone may write a corrido, expressing an opinion, and someone else can write a song as a reaction, or arguing back. I would be interested in listening to those songs (migra-corridos) and I'm sure,,,,there are other corridos being written and played back.

Both Don Beto Cruz and Jesus Garcia are from Sonora, Mexico. To hear some of their music, visit http://www.festival.si.edu/2009/las_americas/cruz.aspx

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Folklore and the Style Invitational

In honor of the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival, the Washington Post ran a Style Invitational asking for possible exhibits that might be part of the Folklife Festival. I enjoyed reading these simply because it highlights something I'm always trying to teach students in my intro to Folklore class: what is and is not folklore.

As you can see from this list, a number of these simply play on the idea of folklore as any old or outdated custom (like licking stamps), while others are truly humorous imaginings of things that could tickle a folklorist's fancy.

I'm actually thinking about using this as part of an exam in my intro class this fall.