Last year Rhyan Lowery, who’s perhaps best known as El Compa Negro, grabbed headlines for being the an African-American in the corrido music industry. For Lowery, love of the music was a product of his environment; he grew up in a primarily Latino Compton, where he learned of Mexican culture through his friends and fell in love. Now, at 19, he can sing corridos in near-perfect Spanish.
So it’s not surprising that in Austin, the Mariachi Paredes de Tejastitlán – University of Texas at Austin mariachi ensemble – has two Asian-American members. “Mainly, it’s the music that attracts me,” said Alan Chen, who plays violin and sings, to We Are Mitú. “The rhythm especially, the rhythm and the guitar and the guitarrón. Their syncopated rhythm they have. It’s really, really, really cool. We don’t see that in classical music, which I’m really familiar with.”
Chen does not exclusively play with the mariachi group; he is also in a few different ensembles, but he decided to join because he heard it would be fun. “And it was really fun,” he said. “That’s why I’m still here.”
He enjoys it so much that he also got the other Asian-American member, Richard, to join the group. Richard was looking for a music class to join, and Alan suggested the Mariachi Paredes de Tejastitlán. Richard, who is a fan of “El Zopilote” and “El Rancho Grande,” likes that the variety in music means they can play just about anywhere.
[H/T We Are Mitú]