The History of Banda Music

Mexican music is often associated with Mariachi bands. However, there is another type of music associated with brass instruments and percussion that is also authentically Mexican. This music is called Banda, and it represents a blending of traditional Mexican music with polka, brought to the Pacific coast region by immigrant Germans during the 19th century.


Banda Defined

Banda is typically played with three groups of instruments: brass, woodwind and percussion. The most prominent Banda instrument is the tambora, a bass drum with an animal hide head. Also prominent in Banda is the tarola, a snare drum with timbales that closely resembles a conventional tom-tom drum. Cowbells and cymbals create the rhythm, which is a driving force in Banda music, if not a constant presence. A majority of Banda melodies feature 3-part harmony.

Banda ensembles typically include between 10 and 20 musicians, including at least one singer. Some Banda ensembles feature as many as three singers. Banda music can accommodate a number of styles: waltzes, marches, rock ballads, and of course, polka music.

The Origins and Spread of Banda

Banda was created during the late 1800s when German immigrants to the State of Sinaloa in Mexico combined traditional polka music with traditional Mexican music to create something entirely new. The result was Banda, which spread throughout southern and central Mexico during the 1880s and 1890s. Immigrants from northern Mexico brought Banda music with them to the Southwestern United States, primarily Texas, Arizona and California.

Since then, Banda music has spread across the United States with the immigration of Mexicans into the Midwest and across rest of the country. Banda music has even been credited with the rise in popularity of the tuba across southern California during the 2010s.

Today’s Banda Music

Banda el Recodo is among the most famous modern-day Banda artists. This ensemble is made up of three trumpets, three trombones, two alto horns and a sousaphone. Other prominent Banda artists include Banda Machos and solo artists Julio Preciado and Roberto Tapia.

Like hip-hop and rap, Banda music is heavily male dominated. However, female artists such as Graciela Beltran and Carmen Jara have made their mark on Banda. The highest selling Banda soloist of all time was Jenni Rivera, a female singer with a big voice. Rivera was beginning to achieve crossover success before she died in a plane crash in 2012. She was only 43 years old.