Museum of International Folk Art

Música Buena: Hispano Folk Music of New Mexico

May 29, 2019


(Santa Fe, NM)—The Museum of International Folk Art (MOIFA) presents Música Buena: Hispano Folk Music of New Mexico from October 6, 2019, to March 7, 2021. The exhibition explores nearly four centuries of inherited musical styles, which developed into regionally specific traditions. Música Buena articulates the roots of New Mexican music through video, sound, instruments, and live performance.

The confluence of European history and Native customs created a distinct style within New Mexican music. Much of the state’s musical practices gleaned influence from those present in the seventeenth century. With the arrival of the Spaniards, so came their multicultural history, which included Roman, Visigoth, Celtic, Muslim, Sephardic, and Christian influences. New traditions formed in New Mexico as Spanish influences blended with regional, Native practices. These traditions informed the new sounds creating an entirely Nuevo Mexicano genre.

In-house curator Nicolasa Chávez and guest curator, Cipriano Vigil bring the performance-based exhibition to MOIFA through digital media and seventy-five objects, curated from in-house and private collections. Música Buena observes multiple facets of New Mexican music, exhibiting objects such as a nineteenth-century homemade violin, flutes made of PVC piping and bone, a Matachines danzante costume, and an original book of alabados (songs performed during Holy Week and for burials). Unknown artists created many of the instruments on view by hand, while known, New Mexican artists created contemporary versions.

Video and sound will render secular and liturgical forms which also developed cross-culturally. The folkloric songs represent life passages and rites such as birth, death, and marriage as well as seasonal celebrations such as the annual cleaning of the acequias. Chávez and Vigil have assembled a team of archivists and videographers to digitize rare footage for the exhibition. Sound clips will represent older pieces held in the museum’s archives, many of which can be accessed online through MOIFA’s Bartlett Library and Archives Collective Access.

In addition to the museum’s digital archives, the curatorial team identified and filmed living New Mexican customs performed each year as theatrical reenactments, passed from generation to generation. The traditions of Dar los Días, or Día de los Manueles and Los Comanches are performed each year on New Year’s Day. Reminiscent of old European Mummer’s Plays, Dar los Días is celebrated by a group of musicians traveling from house to house singing blessings to homeowners who then let the group inside for merriment and feasting. Los Comanches celebrates the rare occasion when Spanish settlers and Pueblo Natives came together to protect New Mexican land from invading forces, often the Comanches. In Ranchos de Taos, dancers re-enact the Comanche dances, drumming and dancing door to door. El Baile de los Matachines is a popular dance performed by Hispano, Pueblo, and GenÍzaro populations for several centuries.

The grand opening Camalache (Gathering) at MOIFA will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on October 6, 2019. Matachines dancers will perform on Milner plaza as visitors participate in green chile roasting and tasting. Family-friendly activities inside the museum include tying Chile Ristras and enjoying herbs and spices from local vendors. Two bands, Cipriano Vigil y Familia and Lone Piñón, play through the afternoon.

During the exhibition’s run, MOIFA will collaborate with several communities and organizations, bringing traditions and performances to the museum. Programs include a series titled Music in the Gallery, featuring live musicians through fall 2019 and Spring/Summer of 2020. As part of MOIFA’s Día delos Muertos celebration, the exhibition will host a lecture on La Llorona’s legend and song with New Mexico State Historian and musician, Rob Martínez.

Community partners include El Rancho de las Golondrinas, who will present Moros y Cristianos, the oldest and longest running play in the continental United States. The dramatization, performed entirely on horseback, took place from 1598 until the end of the twentieth century and re-enacts many battles in Medieval Spain as power changed hands between Christian and Muslim rule. Presenting musical themes from both Christian and Arabic traditions, the play acknowledges and celebrates Spain’s multicultural heritage during the time of the Reconquista. This will be the first re-enactment to grace New Mexican soil in nearly twenty years. Original costumes used in Chimayó and family owned video footage will be included in the exhibition.

Música Buena: Hispano Folk Music of New Mexico emphasizes the bond between New Mexico’s varied cultural landscape to the changing world of musical folk traditions and styles. Local artists, both historic and modern, have created a legacy of New Mexican musical innovation, where culture creates influence for future generations.

Co-curator and master musician Cipriano Vigil brings his personal collection and expertise to the exhibition. Vigil, recognized by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Smithsonian Institution, is a performer, an instrument maker, oral historian, and collector. He has made more than three-hundred instruments and authored New Mexican Folk Music: Treasures of a People.

Nicolasa Chávez is a senior curator of Spanish Colonial and Contemporary Hispano/Latino Collections at the Museum of International Folk Art. Chávez curated the exhibition Flamenco: From Spain to New Mexico, and authored the accompanying publication by the New Mexico Museum Press. A fourteenth generation New Mexican, she is thrilled to work with master musician Cipriano Vigil on this new exhibition, the first of its kind in New Mexico.

Related Photos

Flavio Lovato, New Mexico, ca. 1940-1950
Matachines of the Cañón de Carnué merced, celebrating San Antonio’s Feast Day
Tranquilino Serrano, Española, NM, 1966
Fray Angélico Chávez and unidentified friend dressed for the Santa Fe Fiesta, Circa 1940
Antonia Apodaca on the Bandstand at Traditional Spanish Market
Lorenzo Martínez, violin, Roberto Martínez, guitar, and Larry Martínez, guitarrón. Performing live at Globalquerque, Albuquerque, New Mexico 2015
Tiburcio Ulibarri on violin and is brother Dionisio Ulibarri on guitar, New Mexico, early 20th c.

Back to Press Release List »