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Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet: Banda Sinaloense

by Rachel Devitt

Cheat Sheet: Banda Sinaloense


The story of banda is a near-classic: Mexican village meets European immigrants and their brass and wind instruments, claims them as its own and develops a wild, wonderful whole new world of folk/pop music wherein polkas and waltzes cozy up to cowboy boots and fiestas. Brass bands went on to become a staple of Mexican life, particularly at village parties and weddings, for over one hundred years. But it wasn't until the end of the 20th century that these groups made the transition from fiesta to arena. In the past few decades, the bright trumpets, booming tubas and plaintive winds of banda have become a stapleof regional Mexican music, a source of pride for Mexicans living abroad and, most recently, even a fixture on the Latin pop charts. Today's banda music is typically made up of a large group (sometimes 10-20 musicians) of horn players, the occasional guitar, percussion and, more often than not, a charismatic lead singer/pop star frontman or -woman. Contemporary bandas might play your abuela's conjuntos and rancheras, your mama's corridos and cumbias and your little sister's pop hits. The state of Sinaloa was the setting for banda's meet-cute and most of its subsequent history. And along with developing its own, distinctive tuba-heavy sound, it continues to be a veritable breeding ground for the genre's most long-standing stalwarts and biggest contemporary stars.