Ranchera (pronounced [ranˈtʃeɾa]), or canción ranchera is a genre of the traditional music of Mexico. It dates before the years of the Mexican Revolution. It later became closely associated with the mariachi groups which evolved in Jalisco. Ranchera today is also played by norteño (or Conjunto) or banda and Tamborazo. Drawing on rural traditional folk music, ranchera developed as a symbol of a new national consciousness in reaction to the aristocratic tastes of the period. Some well-known interpreters of the genre are the following singers: Amalia Mendoza, Antonio Aguilar, Chelo, Cuco Sánchez, Flor Silvestre, Irma Serrano, Javier Solís, Jorge Negrete, José Alfredo Jiménez, Lola Beltrán, Lucha Villa, Pedro Infante, Rocío Dúrcal, Vicente Fernández, and presently: Pedro Fernández and Pepe Aguilar.
Traditional rancheras are about love, patriotism or nature. Rhythms can have a meter in 2
4 (ranchera polkeada), 3
4 (ranchera valseada), or 4
4 (bolero ranchero) reflecting the tempo of, respectively, the polka, the waltz, and the bolero. There is a slow ranchera in 4
4 (ranchera lenta). Songs are usually in a major key, and consist of an instrumental introduction, verse and refrain, instrumental section repeating the verse, and another verse and refrain, with a tag ending. Instrumentation may include guitars, strings, trumpets, and/or accordions, depending on the type of ensemble being utilised. Besides the typical instrumentation, ranchera music, as well as many other forms of traditional Mexican music, is also noted for the grito mexicano, a yell that is done at musical interludes within a song, either by the musicians and/or the listening audience.
The normal musical pattern of rancheras is a–b–a–b. Rancheras usually begin with an instrumental introduction (a). The first lyrical portion then begins (b), with instrumental adornments interrupting the lines in between. The instruments then repeat the theme again, and then the lyrics may either be repeated or begin a new set of words. One also finds the form a–b–a–b–c–b used, in which the intro (a) is played, followed by the verse (b). This form is repeated, and then a refrain (c) is added, ending with the verse.
The most popular ranchera composers include Lucha Reyes, Cuco Sánchez, Antonio Aguilar, Juan Gabriel and José Alfredo Jiménez, who composed many of the best-known rancheras, with compositions totaling more than 1000 songs, making him one of the most prolific songwriters in the history of western music.
Another closely related style of music is the corrido, which is often played by the same ensembles that regularly play rancheras. The corrido, however, is apt to be an epic story about heroes and villains, whereas rancheras may not necessarily be heroic ballads, and also vary more in terms of tempo. However, two notable exceptions to this rule are the songs, 'Corrido de Chihuahua' and the 'Corrido de Monterrey', which are considered rancheras in spite of their names. Their lyrics are concerned with patriotism for the states of Chihuahua and Nuevo León, respectively.
The word ranchera was derived from the word rancho because the songs originated on the ranches and in the countryside of rural Mexico. Rancheras that have been adapted by conjuntos, or norteño bands from northern Mexico and the southwestern US, are sometimes called norteños, from the Spanish word for northern. Ranchera singers often wear "charro" outfits which indicates a cowboy suit with tight pants, a short jacket, a bow and riding boots. Mariachi bands, which are the music source behind the ranchera singer, wear "charros" suit as well. Female singers often wear a similar suit, which changes the pants for a long skirt with an opening to the flank, may or not include a sombrero, and dress their hair tidily in a single bun.