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article imageMexican country music: Interview with bandleader Gaspar Madrigal Special

By Adrian Peel     Oct 22, 2015 in Music
Hermosillo - The songwriter, guitarist, vocalist, musical director and driving force behind top Mexican country collective Forasteros Country Band filled Digital Journal in on what he's been up to lately and also discussed the state of country music in his homeland.
Country music is not widely liked in Mexico, although its popularity is increasing - particularly in the states along the US border - thanks to artists like Forasteros Country Band (previously Los Forajidos and also referred to as Los Forasteros), 8 Segundos, Lico y La Barra 9 and Tom Jones, acts who deliver the majority of their output in Spanish.
Hailing from Hermosillo, the capital of the vast northwestern state of Sonora, 38-year-old musician Gaspar Madrigal, known to friends and family as "Gaspior," has been heavily involved in country music for nearly 20 years.
His band are an experienced, well-rehearsed and highly active six-piece who have entertained crowds all over Mexico, including the states San Luis Potosi, Chihuahua, Zacatecas, Durango and Jalisco.
"We have a CD coming out called Perder o Ganar (lose or win)," says Gaspar, commenting on the group's activities at the present time, "and it will be all our own songs. Also we recorded one of the concerts we did back in March in Hermosillo and that will be released on DVD.
"Throughout the year we've been touring and doing shows and in November we'll be doing a gig with Mark Mulligan, a friend of ours from the United States who does beach-friendly country, kind of like Jimmy Buffett.
"We're doing a concert together called 6.5 Mexicans - Country on the Beach and we're also hoping to do a live album and a DVD with Mark to release in 2016. Mark Mulligan really loves Mexico, especially our beaches, and we've become great friends."
Although he likes traditional Mexican music too, Gaspar has probably been more influenced by the likes of George Strait, Hank Jr., Dwight Yoakam, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Brad Paisley and Alan Jackson, and even plays the steel guitar.
He took up one of the instruments most closely associated with country music in 2003, making him something of a rarity south of the border. I wondered whether the people of Sonora shared his passion for the music.
"Only a specific section of the general public do," he replies. "Since Los Forasteros came on the scene, it's started to become more popular in Sonora. It's always existed here, but we've helped take it a little bit further over the last few years.
"Now there are six different country bands in Sonora and one of them is a bluegrass act called Bandolero Bluegrass. They are the first Mexican bluegrass band."
Los Forasteros
Los Forasteros
Gaspior Madrigal
Mexicans are often quick to dismiss country music, yet scores of people enthusiastically line up to dance to Caballo Dorado's "No Rompas Mas Mi Pobre Corazon" ("Achy Breaky Heart" in Spanish) whenever it's played at a party or social event - which is often.
The multi-instrumentalist laughs at this observation. "Yes, some people say they don't like it, but it's probably because they don't know that much about it... Country music can be very upbeat and cheerful and it's very easy to dance to. I'm sure they like it; they're just not as familiar with it as they are with other genres."
Despite his busy schedule, Gaspar also works as a radiology technician. "I enjoy both jobs," he insists, when asked if he would prefer to pursue his artistic ambitions on a full-time basis, "because my job doesn't get in the way of my music. I work on my music in the evenings and at weekends and my job at the hospital is in the mornings from Monday to Friday."
The Band s Logo
The Band's Logo
Gaspior Madrigal
As demonstrated in the video below, Forasteros Country Band are a supremely talented outfit, fully comfortable with performing excellent Spanish-language versions of bona fide country classics such as "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," "Little Bitty" and "Amarillo by Morning."
"Any time we do a cover we try and do it justice," explains this genuine disciple of country music. "We do our best to ensure that we do a good job and whenever we decide to do a song that isn't one of ours and it's not turning out as well as we'd hoped, we prefer not to do it."
Leaving aside the covers, if the group's principal songwriter was introducing someone to the music of Los Forasteros for the first time, which of his self-penned tunes would he suggest they listen to in order to get a flavour of what the band are all about?
Gaspar muses, "I'd say 'Quiero Decirte,' 'Harto de estar Harto,' 'Perder o Ganar,' 'Vaquero Aferrado' and 'Entre Una Falda, Una Botella y Unos Besos de Alcohol'..."
Over the years, Johnny Rodriguez, Freddy Fender and Rick Treviño, among others, have all enjoyed considerable success singing country songs in English and in Spanish. Does Señor Madrigal think that one day songs performed entirely in Spanish might have a place in Nashville?
"I think so, but whoever does it would have to work really hard on the quality of their music - and on their production - in order to reach that level, as they would be competing with internationally renowned artists. But I think it's possible because there is a lot of quality here in Mexico."
For more information on Forasteros Country Band, visit their official Facebook page.
More about gaspior madrigal, los forasteros, Country music, mark mulligan, Jimmy buffett
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