Ranchera music is a popular genre of music from Mexico that takes its name from the ranch lands on which the style was originally performed. Although the music embraces rural themes, its popularity spread during Mexico’s Revolutionary to urban center all over the country.
Its history is intimately tied to a sense of national identity that emerged from the ashes of the Mexican Revolution, which ended almost 30 years of dictatorship. Under Porfirio Diaz, Economic growth was a great success and hailed in the world as an example to follow but at the same time massive lands were dispossessed with landholdings privatized and sold.
This conflict between rural poor and economic success created the imbalances in society that would cause the Mexican Revolution.The end of the Mexican revolution brought new job opportunities to Mexico’s major cities. The music that Mexicans from rural areas brought with them, helped new communities of workers recall the familiar earthy sounds of a country life left behind.
Ranchera songs are characterized by dramatic emotion and topics of love dominate poetic lyrics. Sentimental ranchera singers, their voices charged with a contagious emotion, are often capable of moving to tears even their most hardened listeners. Waltz, polka and bolero inspired rhythms accompany the singer along with sudden cries of emotion that highlight the singer’s sorrowful mood. Beginning in the 1930s, Mexico produced hundreds of comedias rancheras, films that presented the nation with a studio packaged vision of rural life along with the humor and music. By 1950, ranchera music had become the most popular music genre in Mexico.
The popularity of these films helped not only spread ranchera music but also the presence of the mariachi, who made the ranchera an important part of his repertoire. The mariachi is still an instantly recognizable figure around the world as a symbol of Mexico.Ranchera is in fact a general label for different types of music. The genre has absorbed many specific styles of Mexican music since its beginnings. The urban sounds of the Bolero, and later accordion heavy norteño music have both became part of ranchera music. Mariachis, street performers and even some pop stars all perform rancheras using a variety of instruments, most commonly guitars, trumpets and accordions.The most celebrated ranchera singer in the world is the legendary Vicente Fernandez.
Affectionately known as El Rey (The King), Fernandez has sold millions of albums, and is a national icon in his native Mexico. Songs he has performed have become immensely popular and some versions, including his classic Cielito Lindo, are easily recognized by most Americans.Ranchera music radio stations can be found all over the U.S. Listening to these stations is a great way for learners of Spanish as a foreign language to improve their Spanish skills while getting to know one of Mexico’s most beloved music traditions.
Canción Ranchera concerts and festivals are also common in Mexico and many parts of the U.S. Vicente Fernandez concerts have consistently sold out large venues in the U.S. despite little media coverage that does not reflect the singer’s enormous success and influence there.The ranchera embodies the nostalgic spirit of romanticized country life, family, horses and tragic love affairs. Ranchera music has helped define cultural traditions employing universal themes from Mexican society and today it is a defining style of music characterizing the Mexican identity.