Banda el Recodo
Banda el Recodo
Latin music group
For the Lizárragas, the family business means making music, and they have been doing it for well over half a century. Since its inception, Banda el Recodo, one of Mexico's most popular and enduring bandas, has produced close to 180 albums. The so-called "mother of all bandas" has taken the banda music of Mexico's northern Sinaloa state to the world, throwing in a varied mix of jazz, swing, classical, and Latin dance music. Though original bandleader Cruz Lizárraga died in 1995, the band carries on with the aid of his sons.
The story of Banda el Recodo goes back to the person of Cruz Lizárraga. Born in Mexico's Sinaloa state, a young Lizárraga was exposed to the region's traditional music, a fusion of Mexican and German influences. Armed with polkas and waltzes, the Germans took their music to Mexico's West Coast in the mid-1800s. The resulting regional musical heritage included ensembles heavy on brass instruments, marching rhythms and pounding drumbeats. A junior high school dropout with no formal music education, Lizárraga was so seduced by music that he disregarded the opposition of his father and taught himself the clarinet at age 19. He reportedly picked corn (following a down payment that involved selling a pig) in order to buy his first clarinet. "He began playing the clarinet with a slight sense of guilt and of pleasure, playing it in secret," stated the record company Fonovisa. "In the year 1937, dedicating one's life to music was the equivalent of being a bum, and he had better honor his family."
After playing at local high society dances, Lizárraga decided to form his own band in 1938. He named it after his home town, El Recodo. The young musician was more than familiar with the traditional four- or five-piece bands he heard in Sinaloa as a child, but he had bigger plans, something akin to a Mexican big band sound, with multiple instruments. Banda el Recodo featured what would long be its trademark components: two clarinets, two trombones, two trumpets, a snare drum and a bass drum. The band would then go on to feature more trumpets and trombones, tubas, and a large vertical drum called the tambora, to form a 16-piece ensemble that travelled the country. The band would eventually grow to 18 members.
In the 1940s the band delighted live audiences with hits such as "Sanson y Dalila" and "La Patrulla Americana." This was the Golden Age of Mexican film, and Banda el Recodo left its mark in films such as Que Me Entierren Con la Banda and Yo el Valiente. In 1951 the record company RCA Victor approached Lizárraga about recording, which led to the songs "El Callejero" and "Mi Adoración." The group thus became the first banda group to record an album. The band's music caught the ear of musical icons like Juan Gabriel and Jose Alfredo Jimenez, who invited el Recodo to accompany them. While some artists may have regarded the group as a mere backup band, Jimenez always shared credits with them in recordings during the 1950s and 1960s.
The ensemble remained pretty much a regional phenomenon until the late 1980s, when banda music underwent some profound changes. At that time, a sort of "modernized" banda music (including the fast-paced quebradita and techno-banda sounds) was sweeping Mexico and its U.S. emigrant community. While it stuck to its traditional acoustic instruments and eschewed the electronic keyboards and guitars of the newer groups, el Recodo did copy a formula applied by the newer groups. Unlike the faceless bands of yesteryear, the new groups put their singers front and center. The 1990s thus brought the addition of a new singer to the band. When the existing ensemble was complemented by the addition of vocalist Julio Preciadoto, the formula worked, bringing the band several major hits, after they entered into a deal with the record company Fonovisa. By 1995 the band was touring Europe, thus allowing Lizárraga to see his regional music enjoyed by international audiences (even though he was too ill at that time to travel to Europe).
The elder Lizárraga directed the band until 1995, when he died of cancer. Banda del Recodo, however, lived on. His sons Germán and Alfonso, who followed in their father's footsteps by playing the clarinet, took over the band's leadership when he passed away. The band's management was taken on by his widow, Maria de Jesus Lizárraga. The band subsequently modified its sound by bringing in two young vocalists: Luis Antonio Lopez and Carlos Sarabia. By that time, the banda craze had ended, but el Recodo remained the mother of all bands, one that hadn't succumbed to being a short-lived sensation. Cruz Lizárraga never lived to see one of the group's greatest accomplishments: the band's "Lo Mejor de Mi Vida" won a Latin Grammy for Best Banda Performance at the first annual awards ceremony in 2000.
For the Record . . .
Members include Oscar Alvarez ; Mario Alvarado ; Alfonso Lizárraga ; Cruz Lizárraga (died 1995), bandleader; Germán Lizárraga (left group, 2003); Joel Lizárraga ; Luis Antonio Lopez ; Jose Martinez ; Carlos Montoya ; Victor Paez ; Fausto Francisco Sais ; Aldo Sarabia; Carlos Sarabia ; Victor Sarabia ; Carlos Soto; Gerardo Ur'as ; Ramon Ur'as ; Conrado Zatarain .
Group formed, 1938; renamed Banda el Recodo; recorded with RCA Victor, 1951; continued perfoming after Cruz Lizárraga's death in 1995, and into the next decade.
Awards: Latin Grammy awards in 2000, 2001, and 2004; Billboard Latino award for Regional Mexican Airplay Track of the Year, 2002.
Addresses: Record company—FONOVISA Records, 820 Canoga Ave., Ste. #300, Woodland Hills, CA 91367, website: http://www.fonovisa.com. Website— Banda el Recodo Official Website: http://www.bandaelrecodo.com.mx/.
In 2002 the group came closer to the late bandleader's ultimate goal of making his sound heard around the world. After performing in Africa, Europe, and the Americas, Banda el Recodo took its sound on a tour of Australia and Japan. The band then became Mexican goodwill ambassadors at the World Cup. Later that same year the group released No Me Se Rajar, a tribute to Mexican ranchera great Vicente Fernández. In 2003 Germán Lizárraga left the band to form Banda Estrellas de Sonora. Continuity in the family endeavor was nonetheless safeguarded by the continued presence of Alfonso Lizárraga. Their youngest brother, Joel, would later join him in leading the band.
"Through the years, Banda el Recodo has influenced generations of regional Mexican and even Latin pop performers with its signature harmonies, feverish percussion and magnificent horns," stated Billboard in 2003. "Its blend of Mexican and German influences perfectly captures the exciting possibilities of musical and cultural fusion, a sonic hybrid that transcends the artificial boundaries that lie between styles, time and place."
According to Billboard, the band normally sells about 200,000 copies of an album, mostly at mom-and-pop stores and flea markets. Despite its longevity and sense of tradition, the band has played with current Latin pop acts such as Thalia and Paulina Rubio. In 2002 the band joined producer Emilio Estefan to create Por Ti, an album that mixed the band sound with pop and tropical sounds. In 2005, however, the band returned to its roots with the album Hay Amor, characterized by a sound more traditionally Sinaloan, with its use of acoustic and brass instruments. The band said that it hoped the album would appeal to Mexican emigrants to the United States who were nostalgic for some of the sounds they had left behind.
Musica Sinaloense, ARP, 1992.
De Parranda Con la Banda, Fonovisa, 1997.
Historico: Banda el Recodo En Vivo, Fonovisa, 1997.
Duelo de Bandas, Protel, 2001.
Banda el Recodo de Cruz Lizárraga, Fonovisa, 2001.
No Me Se Rajar, Fonovisa, 2002.
Billboard, August 3, 2002; November 15, 2003; May 28, 2005.
"Banda el Recodo," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (July 5, 2005).
Fonovisa Records Website, http://www.fonovisa.com/bandaelrecodo.html (July 8, 2005).
—Brett Allan King
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