Mariachi Herencia de Mexico, an ensemble of students from Chicago’s immigrant barrios, has scored a surprise hit with their debut album of traditional Mexican music. Nuestra Herencia (Our Heritage) ranked No. 2 in its first week on iTunes’ Latin chart, defying a music industry trend and pointing to a revival in recorded mariachi music.
The album, released on May 16, is believed to be the first major mariachi recording released in the U.S. by a student ensemble, with members ranging in age from 11 to 18. It was produced and arranged by L.A.’s mariachi master, Jose Hernández, who calls the project “one of those labor of love things.”
In a historic collaboration, the album features guest musicians from some of the most respected mariachi groups from both sides of the border. It includes vocal contributions, recorded in Mexico, by members of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan, a revered institution in the genre. In addition, members of three top Los Angeles ensembles—Los Camperos, Sol de México, and the all-female group Reyna de Los Ángeles—recorded guest vocals on the CD.
The matching of novice performers with professionals was no gimmick. It was meant to send a signal that this group of students had the talent, training and bravado to hold their own with the best in the world.