Various Artists

Guerra de Bandas: Sinaloa vs. Zacatecas

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These days, living in southern Mexico is hardly a prerequisite for playing banda. The brassy style is as popular among Mexican-Americans living in the United States as it is among Mexicans in Mexico, and banda artists can easily be found in U.S. cities like Chicago and Los Angeles (where Jenni Rivera and Yolanda Pérez -- two major banda stars -- were born and raised). But southern Mexico is certainly where banda originated, and two Mexican states that continue to be major banda contributors are Sinaloa and Zacatecas. In Spanish, Guerra de Bandas means "War of the Bandas," but this Fonovisa compilation isn't really pitting the Mexican states against one another. Rather, Guerra de Bandas: Sinaloa vs. Zacatecas is acknowledging that both states are important to banda, and the 20-track, 56-minute CD does so with material by quality outfits like Sinaloa's Banda el Limón, Zacatecas' Banda Jerez, and Zacatecas' Banda los Escamilla. The oldest banda on this disc is Banda el Recodo, who are heard on five selections (including their major hits "No Me Sé Rajar" and "Que Te Ruegue Quien Te Quiera"). The late Don Cruz Lizárraga (born 1918, died 1995) was leading an early Banda el Recodo lineup in Sinaloa as far back as 1938, and in 2005 -- ten years after Lizárraga's death -- el Recodo was still going strong. Because Banda el Recodo is so legendary, historic, and enduring -- not to mention influential -- some might argue that Sinaloa wins Fonovisa's "battle" of the bandas. But Jerez and los Escamilla certainly paint an attractive picture of what Zacatecas has to offer. Actually, the Sinaloa versus Zacatecas debate is like discussing whether Detroit, Chicago, or Philadelphia made the most important contributions to Northern soul; all of those cities were soul hotbeds, and similarly, Sinaloa and Zacatecas both have plenty of reason to be proud of their contributions to banda. Guerra de Bandas isn't the last word on banda in southern Mexico, but it's a pleasing disc that is well worth owning if one appreciates the exuberant, highly infectious style.

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