Posts Tagged ‘Alejandra Robles’

Some of my closest friends have been (and continue to be) musicians.  And, one of the things I find so appealing about Oaxaca is that music is everywhere and all the time.  Marimbas are set up on sidewalks, accordions are almost ubiquitous, and free concerts occur weekly in the zócalo.  Music is honored and valued as an integral part of the culture — a birthright.

Each of the 8 regions of the state has its own distinctive “sones” and “jarabes” and they are tremendous source of pride.  Within a bar or two of Pinotepa,  Canción Mixteca, or any one of Oaxaca’s regional anthems, the clapping begins, tears may well up, and audiences of all ages begin singing the lyrics.  Thus, a major feature of the modern “Mondays on the Hill” that is Guelaguetza, is the performance of the music and dance of each of the regions.

And, so I give you, some of the musicians who played almost non-stop for 3 hours, while their delegations danced their way through the streets of Oaxaca city during the last two Saturday evening Guelaguetza desfiles (parades).

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Here’s to the musicians, long may they play!


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Yesterday, we began the marathon than is Guelaguetza in Oaxaca.  First on the day’s agenda was a morning trip to Reyes Etla.

The Señor de las Peñas church sits atop at hill and views of the lush green fields (gracias, rainy season) and the mountains were breathtaking.

Cactus, farmland, mountains

Impossibly adorable children danced and shared, in the spirit of Guelaguetza.

Boy and girl in traje throwing candy to audience

We were in the heartland of Oaxaca cheese country for the crowning of  Jimena Santiago Vasquez, as queen of the third Expo Feria de Queso y Quesillo.

Girl with crown and red sash

Did I say cheese?  Oh, yes — stalls and stalls of yummy cheese.  The fair runs through Monday and we will be back!

Woman selling cheese

Next on our itinerary was a return to the city for a little (?) gluttony — the Festival de los 7 Moles opening banquet on the grounds of the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca.  Botanas Oaxaqueña (cheese, chicharrón, chiles rellenos), followed by Sopa de Fandango, 15 (not 7) Moles, 4 Tipos de Arroz, followed by a platter of pastries and scoops of Leche Quemada and Tuna nieves (sorbets).  Oh, and did I mention, cervesas and mezcal?

Lines of serving platters and people

We even got a little culture, as author, Laura Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate) spoke, though it was a little hard to hear her, with all the eating, drinking, and related conversations!

Profile of Laura Esquivel

Moving rather slowly, we pushed back from the table and headed down to the Alameda (oh, it felt good to walk!) to take in the last stage of the Diosa Centéotl competition — the chosen “Goddess” presides over Guelaguetza.  However, the area surrounding the tented stage was a mass of people by the time we arrived and the best I could do was see the backs of the magnificent traje.  (See Chris’s blog for close-ups from the stage one competition.)  And, the winner is…  Dulce Yanet Grijalba Martínez, from the Zapotec community of San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

Backs of women sitting in traditional dress

After a brief siesta, I rendezvoused with some young friends and we walked over to the Plaza de la Danza for a free performance by Alejandra Robles, one of my favorite Oaxaqueña singers.  (For video from the last time I saw her, click HERE.)

Alejandra Robles

The night was still young for my young friends and they were off to get a nieve at Jardín Socrates.  I was off to bed, because I’d already had my day’s allowance of nieve AND we’ve only just begun!

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Lighting, costumes, music, and dance combined to envelop last night’s audience at the Teatro Macedonio Alcalá in an other worldly experience.  Catrina is a magical tale where the world of the living converges with the world of the dead and the central theme is the pain of a mother losing her daughter.

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The show is a celebration of the pre-Columbian traditions and culture of Oaxaca, especially the ritual and meaning surrounding Día de los Muertos.  Much of the music was traditional Oaxacan and most performers were Oaxaqueños, including Alejandra Robles, singing the title role.

At 48% (that’s over 1.6 million people), the state of Oaxaca has the second highest indigenous population in Mexico.  Perhaps that is why the belief systems of the ancient Mexicans Octavio Paz, cites in The Labyrinth of Solitude, remain strong today.  He writes, “Life extended into death, and vice-versa.  Death was not the natural end of life but one phase of an infinite cycle.”  Healthier, more realistic, and more comforting, I think…

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As the promotional material for Ma (yo) en Oaxaca, Mujer (es) Arte y Cultura explains (loose translation), like a skilled weaver, women create the fabric of life… part of the history of humanity, intelligence that moves, the look that looks, which is regarded in the construction of better horizons of life for her and those who are around her.  And so, from May 3rd through 13th, the women of Oaxaca are being celebrated with workshops, exhibitions, lectures, and concerts.

Last night, under the supermoon, one of the accomplished women of Oaxaca, Alejandra Robles, gave a free concert, just a block away, in the Plaza de la Danza…

Ma (yo) en Oaxaca is a party for all of the principles of inclusion and participation to make possible the knowledge and appreciation of the cultural richness of groups which, for various reasons, have been marginalized.

¡Viva las mujeres!

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A musician friend recently told of hearing a young Oaxaqueña singer with a breathtakingly beautiful voice. And, the current front page of the Oaxaca Times announces, Alejandra Robles: the new oaxacan voice. I don’t know if this is who he was referring to, but in the words of the article, “her powerful voice reflects her training in Opera but her style is traditional Mexican with a rhythmic flare.”

Alejandra Robles - photo from Oaxaca Times

Alejandra Robles
is following in the immensely talented and extremely popular steps of Oaxaqueña vocalists, Lila Downs

Lila Downs - photo from Wikipedia

and Susana Harp, who have carved out successful careers celebrating their Oaxacan roots.

Susana Harp - photo from Wikipedia

I haven’t knowingly heard Alejandra Robles sing; I say “knowingly” because music is everywhere and often free… you just never know when and where you will round a corner to find it. This past November, from the comfort of my terrace, I had a ringside seat for a free Lila Downs concert a block away at the Plaza de la Danza. And, the previous May, I wandered down to the zócalo to hear Susana Harp performing (for free) with the Oaxaca State Band under the shade of the laurel trees.

And then there was this unknown singer…

Unknown singer at the Plaza de la Danza

In September, her beautiful clear and powerful voice drew me off the rooftop and over to the Plaza de la Danza where she and her talented band were performing to an audience of less than 100 people… part of events celebrating the Bicentennial. Regretfully, I was too shy to try out my limited Spanish and ask, “¿Quién es?” I searched the local newspapers and cultural calendars, but never was able to figure out who she was. Anyone know?

Update:  She is Natalia Cruz, a proud Zapoteca from Ixtaltepec in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.  Muchisimas gracias to one of my readers!

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