Sones de México Ensemble – Fiesta Mexicana: Mexican Songs & Stories for Niños and Niñas and their Papás & Mamás

Sones de México Ensemble – Fiesta Mexicana: Mexican Songs & Stories for Niños and Niñas and their Papás & Mamás

When I was a young child, growing up I experienced both the traditions of coming from a family deep in Mexican culture while being born in the United States. Living on the U.S./Mexican border in one of the largest border cities also added an influx of strong culture from all sides. Through years of schooling where I transitioned from a bilingual class to a monolingual setting I always recognized the significance of understanding one’s roots and ancestry. So it brought me immense pride to know that there was someone like the Sones de México Ensemble, an entirely not-for-profit musical organization whose goal was to deliver Mexican stories and songs into the lives of children all over the U.S.

The sounds on Fiesta Mexicana: Mexican Songs & Stories for Niños and Niñas and their Papás & Mamás are just that, a festivity that is intended for both boys and girls and their parents. A lively and open interpretation, the ensemble features narratives where one member re-tells a story asking for participation from children and with the support of the rest of ensemble to bring out the sounds. Whether it’s a story about the earliest beginnings, dancing lessons or about a sneaky rat, there is an enchanting feel to this album that leaves you affected. Not only is it something that could easily be heard by any child (it’s a two-disc set that is English on one side and Spanish on the other) but their messages are ones that all can relate to: covering themes of love, unity and having balance in your life.

The album opens with a flourishing and vibrant original composition by music director Victor Pichardo. As much as this is a somewhat educational blending about Mexican folklore, the music is as equally important in representing how different styles, sounds and cultures can come together for a melting pot of learning. While all the music is arranged by Pichardo, it is Juan Díes that narrates all of the stories and teachings. Everything smoothly moves from one story to the other with music that is richly decorated with Mexican tradition. Even when Díes is narrating, there is hardly ever any silence with either a drum pat, guitar strum or a singular instrument always in the background. And even after the ‘learning’ part is over, everyone rejoices in dancing to the festive music.

If there was anything confusing about the album’s aim is just where the focus is supposed to be: the music, the stories, the lessons behind the stories, all of it? Primarily, this started out as a project to go around towns to bring out the best aspects of Mexican culture in the lives of children all over the country. And while one may feel a tinge of frustration from not being able to simply hear great songs with lyrics about Mexican tales, the narrations serve a larger purpose. And much like one of their lessons, everything is balanced with a precise hand and it shines towards the end; after the dances of Tixtla, we are left to celebrate each dance and then end it all in a rousing jam of Richie Vallens’ “La Bamba.”

Through its special artwork, to the musicians’ love and desire to create something both educational and fun, to the incorporation of both an English and Spanish set, Fiesta Mexicana: Mexican Songs & Stories for Niños and Niñas and their Papás & Mamás is a success in every sense of the word. It connects a bit stronger with someone like me but it genuinely is a modestly championed collection that can find happiness in a lot of people, no matter what your age, race or background is.