La Música Yucateca
One of the Yucatán’s defining characteristics is its love of music. Whether it’s the daily free concerts in the plazas around Mérida, the Mexican pop blasting out of every tiny shop, or the kids walking around with their smartphones on speaker-mode, music is an inescapable fact of life here. So we weren’t surprised to find a museum dedicated to Yucatecan music, right in the center of Mérida.
Found near the Plaza de La Mejorada, the Museo de la Canción Yucateca takes visitors on a tour of the peninsula’s musical history. The first room introduces ancient Maya music, but the exhibits quickly veer into celebrating the 20th century artists who delivered a golden age of music to the peninsula. For people such as ourselves, without any knowledge of Yucatecan music, reading the backgrounds of people we’d never heard of wasn’t terribly absorbing. It would be like visiting Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame without knowing Elvis Presley from Little Richard.
So, we were quickly finished with the museum. It was a pleasant visit; the building and its courtyard are beautiful and the entrance price minimal, but it wasn’t an experience we were thrilled about. But that didn’t stop us from making a return trip just two days later. On a balmy Friday night, the museum was putting on a concert paying homage to the some of the peninsula’s greatest artists.
Now this was the kind of introduction I could get behind. For an hour, we sat in the front row tapping our feet while the talented lads of El Trio Ensueño took us through a musical crash course of the Yucatán’s most popular artists. Cirilo Baqueiro, Manuel Merodio, Guty Cárdenas … fine, I’ll admit that I’m just copying these names from the program, but I really did love the music. Personal favorites included “Si tu no estás aquí” by Sergio Esquivel and Armando Manzanero’s “Somos novios”, the latter of which might be recognized by fans of Perry Como’s.
In 1971, Perry Como released an English-language version of “Somos novios” called “It’s Impossible”. Naturally, Mr. Manzanero’s permission hadn’t been sought, nor had he been offered any compensation. Como and his studio just translated his song into English, turned it into a massive hit, and even picked up a Grammy for their troubles. An open-and-shut case of copyright theft, but when Manzanero sued, he lost in front of a shameless US court.
Now that I know some of the songs and artists, I’d probably be more receptive to the museum’s exhibits. But regardless of your knowledge of Yucatecan music, don’t miss out if you happen to be in Mérida while the museum is putting on a show.
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January 23, 2014 at 5:57 pm