Vihuelas, trumpets, guitarróns, and violins. Traje de charros, rancheras, and huapangos. These are but a few of the ingredients which make up the unique sound of Mexico: mariachi. We’re only missing one thing—the songs!
Ranging all the way from traditional tunes to modern pop covers, we’ve chosen the top 10 mariachi songs guaranteed to brighten any fiesta.
Many traditional and modern mariachi tunes have intriguing backstories, and we’ve added some of those to give you a taste of the rich history and traditions of mariachi music. As a musical style, mariachi is constantly evolving. Now, and especially outside of Mexico, mariachi groups can cover an amazingly wide range of music. This includes everything from 70s rock, to modern pop, to various genres from Latin America (like cumbia from Colombia, or guajira from Cuba). Whether you want to hear the jaunty rhythms of “El Son de la Negra” or a mariachi-styled cover of “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, mariachi bands can do it all.
The traditional music of Mexico is magical in and of itself, as anyone who has been there will tell you. But now that talented mariachi musicians can be found all over the world, and are able to perform a vast array of genres, they have become a favourite for all kinds of events—from weddings, to birthday parties, to corporate functions. Simply put, a talented mariachi band can transform a good event into an unforgettable event.
Mariachi bands can also roam around while performing. This capacity to play ‘unplugged’ makes them the perfect choice for socially-distanced gatherings—providing a COVID-safe performance that is manageable and also lots of fun.
Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re thinking about booking a mariachi band at some point in the future. And while the videos and songs below will have you humming along in no time, they are nothing compared to the real thing. The excitement and joy of seeing a live mariachi band performance is something that can’t be captured by a camera.
On Encore, we’re lucky enough to have many wonderful mariachi bands based all over the UK. So whether you’re in Manchester or Maidstone, the music of Mexico can bring your event to life!
- What are some traditional songs for mariachi bands?
- What are some cover songs for mariachi bands?
- How much do mariachi bands cost?
El Son de la Negra
Also known as “Le Negra,” this folk tune is easily one of the most famous mariachi songs. Immortalised in 1940 by the composer Blas Gilando, it has become synonymous with Mexican culture and identity. Due to its immense popularity, “La Negra” is even often referred to as Mexico’s second national anthem. The music—an upbeat, lively style known as son jalisciense—is usually accompanied by a dance called the zapateado. The footwork of zapateado dancers flows with the music, striking their heels against the ground in rhythm with the ensemble (a little like tap dancing). And although the lyrics have a melancholy tinge (a worker waits for his lover to return), the exuberance of the tune has ensured its timelessness.
Mariachi bands come in duos too! Mariachi Los Soneros performing a crowd favourite, ‘El Son de la Negra’
Not to be confused with the tango sharing the same name, ‘Volver Volver’ is a ranchera-style piece led by a crooning vocal melody and lilting trumpets. It is a classic love song about desiring an old flame, and the impossibility of turning back the clock. Made famous by Vicente Fernández, also known as the ‘The King of Ranchera Music’, ‘Volver Volver’ has all the hallmarks of the greatest ranchera songs: deeply emotional refrains, poignant verse, and that rawness one finds in the best folk music.
México Lindo y Querido
Another trait ranchera music is well-known for is its patriotism and evocation of nature. There is no better example of this than “México Lindo y Querido.” Written in a waltz-style with sudden tempo changes, bubbly melodies, and stunning a cappella-style harmonies, this is a must-hear for those new to mariachi music. The lyrics celebrate the natural beauty of Mexico, express an undying love for home, and the ability of music to capture those emotions: “The voice of my guitar / wants to sing its joy / to my Mexican homeland / when the morning wakes up.” It’s no wonder mariachi bands hold this tune in high esteem.
Cinema lovers need look no further. “Malagueña Salerosa”—a huapango-style song similar to son jalisciense tunes with their alternating rhythms and zapateado dancers—was used by Quentin Tarantino in his film, Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (performed by Chingon, a band started by director Robert Rodriguez). When it comes to music, Tarantino is known for his good taste. This is certainly no exception. The song has also been covered by over two-hundred artists, from perhaps the most famous mariachi band, Mariachi Vargas De Tecalitlán, to the American heavy metal band, Avenged Sevenfold. Written back in the 1940s, “Malagueña Salerosa” remains to this day a gem of the mariachi canon.
As the only song included in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time not sung in English, as well as the number-one single on the US & UK charts in 1987, “La Bamba” is probably the most recognisable of the tunes on this list (and also the only one from East Mexico rather than West Mexico). Another huapango-style song, it is often played at weddings and other celebrations where dancing is the focus. It’s the ideal party-starter—100% energy and 100% fun!
Rubén Fuentes, a violinist of the legendary ensemble Mariachi Vargas De Tecalitlán, wrote “La Bikina” in 1964, along with numerous other Mexican music standards. It has since grown in fame enormously since then, mainly due to Luis Miguel—one of the best-selling Latin music artists of all time. Miguel’s renditions of the song are usually accompanied by a large mariachi orchestra, which lifts the already impassioned melody to a fever pitch. Pared-down versions of “La Bikina” can work just as effectively. Smaller mariachi bands lend an intimacy to the song that is sometimes lost on larger ensembles. This versatility is what makes it one of the best mariachi songs out there.
While not exactly a ‘traditional’ mariachi song, “Guantanamera” has been taken up wholesale by mariachi bands all over the world. Very similar in form to “La Bamba,” this Cuban guajira-style song works perfectly for mariachi bands, with its focus on tight vocal harmonies, an easy-going attitude, and patriotic lyrics. And that melody? Hard to beat. (Hard to get out of your head as well!)
Mariachi Ole—available to book on Encore—performing a festive ‘Guantanamera’
Happy by Pharrell Williams
Like all pop sensations, “Happy” is a song that lends itself well to covers. Possibly the most well-known songs of the mid-2010s, it’s difficult to remember a time when hearing it felt like hearing something new and fresh. But reinvented and performed by a mariachi band, the novelty piles back on—a familiar song spiced up by a shiny new pair of charro boots, a rip-roaring trumpet, and a sombrero!
Despacito by Luis Fonsi
Despacito is often credited with popularising Spanish-language pop music for a new generation. It’s no surprise it works perfectly in a mariachi style—fitting in seamlessly with more traditional tunes, and breathing new life into a song that is tailor-made for events where group sing-alongs are expected.
¿Quién será? by Pablo Beltrán Ruiz (also known as Sway)
If “Sway” hadn’t become so popular, we could have included it in the traditional section. Written for his own orchestra in 1953, the Mexican composer Pablo Beltrán could hardly have imagined how huge his song would become. Originally titled “¿Quién será?,” but since anglicised as “Sway,” this jazz/pop standard has been covered hundreds of times, in every imaginable genre by artists as diverse as Dean Martin, The Pussycat Dolls, and George Clinton of Funkadelic. The song itself has its roots in bolero, mambo, and cha-cha-chá. In other words, this song is a mariachi band’s bread and butter.
On average, you should expect to pay around £200 to £250 for each member of a mariachi band. Most mariachi bands have a set amount of musicians, but many can offer larger or smaller ensembles based on your budget or venue size.
As a rough guide, the price of booking a mariachi band is as follows:
- 3 musicians: £500–£700
- 4 musicians: £650–£850
- 5 musicians: £750–£1000
- 6+ musicians: £800–£2000
When it comes to mariachi band repertoire, this is really only the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of fantastic tunes that’ve been left out of this list. But fear not! If you get in touch with any one of our mariachi bands, they’ll be able to show you their sizeable song lists, replete with all the best mariachi music and pop covers. They can also point out which songs would be well-suited to your event (emotive ballads for a wedding; chilled rancheras for a summer party). Many mariachi bands can also prepare pop cover requests for you too. (But give them plenty of notice!)
If you’ve already organised a mariachi band for your event, but need more entertainment for later in the day or for a different event, we have plenty of musicians who would love to serenade you and your guests! Why not take a look at some of those brilliant wedding acts—we’ve got everything from Ceilidh bands, to Jazz duos, to singing ukulele players.