For the next week, Carmi's Thematic Photographic will be exploring Musical themes. Put together the instruments, the rhythm and the musicians who play it, and you'll have music -
A crowded club, a dark room with mirrors and the setting sun flashing through the open doorway. Busboys and waitresses passing through the doorway.
Even with all this, and a dying camera battery, I think I managed to get a few nice pictures of the group Mariachi Alta California playing for Cinco de Mayo this evening at El Texate Restaurant in Santa Monica.
Mariachi ensembles usually feature two trumpets, several violins in varying pitches, and sometimes a harp. A high-pitched stringed instrument called the vihuela gives a distinct sound. The bass part is played by a guitarron, or a large, deep-voiced six-string guitar-shaped instrument. There is usually no percussion. The performers wear traditional charro costumes, with short fitted jackets, tight trousers with silver studs down the seams, and sometimes wide-brimmed hats. The style originated in the state of Jalisco, though it has now spread throughout Mexico and America, and began with strolling street musicians. The bands are now hired to perform at family celebrations like weddings and birthdays, and at special festivals. They play waltzes, boleros, marches and also traditional Mexican musical forms such as corridas and rancheras.
Often mariachi ensembles feature singers. For Mariachi Alta California, everyone in the ensemble takes a turn singing.
El Texate is a small family-operated restaurant, just a few blocks from the beach. The menu features Oaxacan-style food, including six different varieties of mole. So far, I've had their versions of coloradito, amarillo, and negro, and they were all fantastic. You can sit in the bar, or in the dining room where the little corner stage is located, or in an outdoor shaded patio.
The margaritas are tasty, the beer's cold, and the food is excellent. Mariachi Alta California is playing at the restaurant regularly on Mondays during happy hour and beyond - so if you're by the beach on a Monday night - check them out. Our friend Carlos plays the guitarron.