Alma de Mexico began this years General Anzeiger ‘Sommergarten’ concerts on the Bundeskunsthalle roof in fine sartorial style on Sunday. Clad in black outfits trimmed with shining metal clasps and obligatory sombreros, the music was high Summer even if the weather was less certain of the Season, as the sky strained to make any real attempt at blue, and the air resisted any urge to create a breeze – No matter, it was Mariachi Sunday. Fiesta Time!
Yes, I admit it, my experience of Mariachi music begins with Leslie Nielsen’s ‘The Naked Gun’ and ends with ‘The Three Amigos’ in the company of Chevy Chase and Steve Martin. Always comedy and pastiche. It’s actually a lot more serious than that though. In a recent interview in the General Anzeiger Miguel Angel Zermeño points out that „Mariachi wear cowboy boots usually with hard soles, because the style developed from the one of the rancheros who used to wear hardwearing clothing in the desert. The boots create a certain sound, similar to tap dance but stronger. That’s why the rhythm always comes from a certain move, like in a dance.“. In short, the music has serious roots and a tough background.
The said boots are in evidence on the Bundeskunsthalle roof this humid morning. Zermeño’s band Alma de Mexico have the task of kicking off this year’s concerts, and kicking is a good description. There’s an oval wooden board on the stage floor that provides a solid percussion base for Zermeño’s boots, and a fundament for the afternoons musical delights.
Early in the set and all sombreros are deposited as decoration front of stage. They’re back on again later for a ‘walk-about’ though as the quintet head out, instruments in hand, through the 700+ audience that has assembled on a humid Sunday for some music, a beer, maybe and even (for the youngsters) a swing. The brave can even take a ride on artist Carsten Höllers newly installed slide from roof to ground below.
Without electricity on the walk-about it’s difficult to hear any music – but the band play it safe with a melody everybody knows anyway in ‘Guantanamera’. Okay, it’s a Cuban number known to me via Pete Seeger when it was used as a peace song at the heart of the Cuban Missile crisis. Today though it’s a cheerful sunny tune on a cheerful Summers day that will hopefully be followed by five equally Summery and even more sunny Sundays ‘on the roof’.
The first Sunday in July sees an appearance by Marco Marchi and the Mojo Workers. Hopefully it will be so sunny that we’ll all need sombreros by then!
There will be lots more great music to enjoy ‘on the roof’ as well as lots to do in between the music and sunshine, as this short video on the latest ‘Play’ Exhibition illustrates: