The informant is a musician from Oaxaca, Mexico. He has been playing Bolero music for sixteen years and is incredibly talented. I approached him at an outdoor coffee shop after hearing him on his guitar. I’ve included a clip of him strumming a Bolero chord.
“Yes so, something I would like to share is music. When I think of folklore I think of my music, Bolero music, the genre of Bolero music. It was something that was taught to me by my dad when I was ten years old. And Bolero music comes from Cuba but it also kind of influenced from myself, to stay connected to my own culture, my own language.
So there’s a folklore of Bolero music. It’s kind of a lost tradition. So I celebrate it, I preserve it, everyday by playing the music, if not listening to it, that style of song on Spotify or on the radio.”
How did your father introduce it to you?
“I think through cassettes or CDs, we would listen to it every evening. And he told me and my brother ‘I want you to learn it, to learn this type of music. So he hired a teacher because it’s folk music. So Bolero is folk music, so you won’t learn it in universities or in schools. It’s specific to my culture.”
So what makes Bolero music distinct, what defines it?
“In my opinion what makes it distinct is the lyrics and talking about it musically, chords, the artists, what they call the golden era of Bolero music. It was started in the 1920s. It started in Mexico. But the music has history since 1883, so it has African, Cuban, European influences.
It’s a lot of heartbreak songs, like blues. But also celebrating love. There used to be serenades, like back in the 1930s-40s where you would serenade a woman that you felt attracted to, a partner. So it’s about love songs, it’s about feeling nostalgia.
I’ve been playing since I was fifteen, so sixteen years now. So now I’m trying to preserve it myself through a concert series that I started two years ago. There’s a lot of artists in LA that play this music but there’s no space or outlet for them to showcase especially folk music, and just folk music in general. So I created this concert series called Boleros De Noche.”
Some songs the informant recommended: Sin Ti, Amorcito Corazon, Cien Años, Sabor a mi, Besame Mucho. The first bolero is called Tristesas. That’s the first Bolero recorded.