The Mariachi Festival brings a taste of authentic Mexican history to the Alix Goolden Hall on May 17.

The Mariachi Festival brings a taste of authentic Mexican history to the Alix Goolden Hall on May 17.

Celebrate the sounds of Mexico

The music of Mexico comes to the Inner Harbour in a free preview of the Mariachi Festival

The sights and sounds of Mexican tradition are coming to Victoria for the fifth annual Mariachi Festival on May 17 at the Alix Goolden Performance Hall.

Up to 36 performers from Mexico, Texas and Vancouver will showcase the centuries-old traditional Mexican music, with a sneak peek performance at the Inner Harbour on Friday morning.

“It’s a very unique family festival, very rich in music and history, and it brings a little bit of education about what we have in Mexico,” said director/producer Alex Alegria, who heads his own mariachi band, Los Dorados (the Golden Boys) in Vancouver.

Professional mariachi group Cocula promise to get the audience moving when they take the stage dressed as charros (otherwise known as “Mexican cowboys”) complete with sombreros, flashy belts and colourful suits.

Cocula hails from what is believed to be the birthplace of mariachi in Jalisco, Mexico. While its origins date back to the 16th century, the modern mariachi of trumpets, strings and guitar only developed in the late 1920s, Alegria said.

“Back in the day, we didn’t have trumpets, instead there were drums and a little flute, the chimirilla. That instrument is almost like a flute but with a much different sound,” he said.

Texas-based Los Arrieros is also adding their world-class musical expertise to the festival in Victoria, as well as stops in Vancouver and Nanaimo.

“Los Arrieros is one of the best mariachi bands in the United States,” Alegria said.

Alegria and his fellow bands will perform a special preview concert at Victoria’s Inner Harbour at 11 a.m. across from the Fairmont Empress Hotel.

The free event will provide onlookers with a taste of what they’ll be inclined to witness later that evening at Alix Goolden Performance Hall.

The Mariachi Festival begins May 15 in Vancouver, where Alegria has arranged to screen a 1941, a period when mariachi was at its height of North American success, Mexican film at VanCity theatre.

“We also wrote a specific song for the Canadian festival we’ll be playing for the first time in Victoria. It talks about all the mariachis coming out of the conflict of the Mexican revolution and coming to Canada,” he said.

For more information, go to mariachifestival.ca or buy tickets, (adults $38.50, senior $33.50, student $33.50, children $28.50) for the Victoria performance through the Royal McPherson Box Office at 250-386-6121 or at rmts.bc.ca.