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Mexican folk musicians on special mission

SYBENE — There’s more to Mexican music than acoustic guitars and guys in silver charro outfits and wide-brimmed hats.

That’s what Sones de Mexico Ensemble wants to prove when the group of Mexican musicians come next week.

The ensemble will perform three concerts starting at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, at the Sybene Senior Center. That night at 7 p.m. will be a more extensive show at Ohio University Southern. On Friday will be a 10 a.m. performance also at Ohio University geared more for the college students followed by workshops at Ironton High School.

It all started 15 years ago when Juan Dies, now executive director of the non-profit, met up with award-winning musician and composer Victor Pichardo.

“I was fresh out of graduate school at Indiana University. I was an ethnomusiciologist. I grew up in Mexico and came to the United States to study that,” Dies said recently during a phone interview from the group’s headquarters in Chicago.

“I saw how much knowledge he had about these regional styles. He taught me the technique to play those styles.”

Now the ensemble of six musicians appear in concerts worldwide showing the regional music of their home country performing on between 25 to 30 instruments.

“Part of our mission is to show how diverse Mexican music is,” Dies said. “I love mariachi music, but there is so much more about Mexican music. We like to bring those to light and bring to the stages of the world.”

There is a lack of knowledge about the diversity of this kind of folk music outside of the regions in Mexico where it originated, Dies said.

He compares this to a limited understanding of the variety of music from the United States.

“I can think of Appalachian music in the U.S., maybe some forms of Cajun and Zydeco that are known in their region, but people outside the region only know the United States by jazz and blues,” he said.

In the past decade plus, Sones de Mexico have recorded three albums and traveled to more than 30 states and countries.

“Mariachi has had more of a presence in films and the media and television. Some of the other styles are obscure outside of their own region,” Dies said. “We demystify. Maybe at the beginning (audiences) may be intrigued by such foreign sounds. By the end they see it is just as enjoyable as the others. They will end up dancing and clapping.”