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Six band members of Sones de Mexico pose with their instruments
Photograph: Henry Fajardo

Celebrate Mexican Independence Day with live music at Time Out Market Chicago

Immerse yourself in the sounds of Mexico during a live performance from Chicago-based folk band Sones de México.

Emma Krupp
Written by
Emma Krupp

Friday, September 16 is Mexican Independence Day, which celebrates the anniversary of Mexico’s independence from Spain. Have you made plans yet? If not, head to Time Out Market Chicago to catch a performance from Grammy-nominated ensemble Sones de México, a lively folk group and educational not-for-profit that takes audiences on an auditory tour through the regional styles of Mexican music. 

Founded in 1994 by a group of local musicians in Pilsen, Sones de México specializes in “son,” a wide-ranging category of Mexican folk music that covers styles like huapango, gustos, chilenas and son jarochos, among others. Unlike mariachi or banda, the son musical tradition is often less well-known by American audiences, says musician and Sones de México founder Juan Díes. 

“It’s a large family of musical styles, and each style has different instrumentation,” Díes explains. “You can compare it to food—if all you know about Mexican food is tacos, you have so much more to discover.”

Accordingly, Sones de México has released a broad range of records over the years, from norteño arrangements of classic American folk songs alongside original compositions in the Grammy- and Latin Grammy-nominated album Esta Tierra Es Tuya (This Land is Your Land) to a far-flung collection of indigenous songs, inspired by the turn of the Mayan calendar in 2012, found on 13 B’ak’tun. The group has performed their diverse discography at famous venues like Carnegie Hall in New York City and The Getty Center in Los Angeles. At Time Out Market, they’ll play as a sextet while switching between different instruments for each song. 

“We’ll be hopping around different places in Mexico that have different instrumentation,” Díes says. “We might go to northern Mexico and use our accordion, guitar and drums. Maybe in southern Mexico, we’re playing a marimba. Maybe we go to the west coast and we’re using clarinet, or on the east coast we’re using a harp.”

During each performance, Díes takes time before each song to introduce its historical context and any unusual instruments audiences might be unfamiliar with, part of the not-for-profit’s goal of broadening musical education and appreciation. Díes estimates the group has accumulated around 100 instruments, many of which represent Mexico’s rich history of migration and cultural intermingling. Take, for instance, the charrasca—also called a quijada or simply jawbone—which is fashioned from the jawbone of a donkey, horse or mule, and makes a uniquely resonant rattling noise when struck. 

“The donkey jaw was used in South America and Peru by African slaves to accompany themselves,” Díes says. “And there was a migration of Black people from Peru to the west coast of Mexico in the early 19th century. They were silver miners, and they started using the donkey jaw. And now they’re eighth generation Mexicans still maintaining their traditions.” 

You can see some of those instruments and musical traditions in action when Sones de México performs their Mexican Independence Day set in the second floor stadium area of Time Out Market (916 W Fulton Market) from 6-8pm on Friday, September 16. Before heading upstairs to watch the band, swing by the Market’s first floor bar to find drink specials like $10 micheladas and $12 palomas and negronis. Have a very happy Mexican Independence Day!

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