Here’s The Story Behind Mariachi Samurai, The Japanese Mariachi Band That Went Viral During The Tokyo Olympics
You’ve probably heard of the Chicano subculture that exists in Japan. This mostly focuses on fashion and lowriders, but there’s another subculture making its presence in Japan: mariachi. One of the most popular Japanese mariachi bands goes by Mariachi Samurai and they’re making headlines around the world thanks to the Tokyo Olympics throwing them back into the spotlight.
The group has been around for 25 years, ever since its lead musician spent time living in Mexico and became familiar with the mariachi sound and culture. When he returned to Japan, he wanted to keep that part of Mexico alive in his native county and launched his own mariachi group that continues to make headlines to this day.
Mariachi Samurai is a group of Japanese musicians celebrating Mexican culture.
Regional Mexican music is the culmination of more than five centuries worth of culture and history, but even today it continues to evolve and manifest itself in entirely unique ways. This is evident in the music of Mariachi Samurai who work to bring that iconic Mexican sound to the people of Japan and the world.
Osamu Hosegawa (known as Sam Moreno) is the creator of Mariachi Samurai and has been studying regional music since he was 18-years-old. He even lived in Mexico City to study the country’s musical culture and history. He’s been dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of traditional Mariachi music ever since.
During his stay in Mexico, Hosegawa learned Spanish and practiced with some of Mexico’s most well-known musicians in the famous Plaza Garibaldi – which remains the beating heart of the capital’s Mariachi community. In 2000, he sang alongside Cumberto Pérez in the group Mariachi 2000, a very famous group in Garibaldi.
When he returned to Japan in 2008, Hosegawa started with just himself on the guitar and violinists, but now Mariachi Samurai has a trio of violinists, plus trumpets, guitars, a traditional guitarrón mexicano, and even a folklorico duo.
You’d be forgiven for not thinking the band was made up of your own tíos.
The band’s vocalist, Sawaka Katalyna, was born in Japan, but grew up in Guadalajara and speaks flawless Spanish and her voice is incredible. Sawaka, who now lives in Japan, was a long-time fan of Mariachi Samurai and used to attend their performances to connect with her ‘segunda patria.’ Since she already knew the songs, Hosegawa asked her to start singing some of the sounds and eventually to join the band. It’s been a perfect pairing ever since.
Seriously can’t get enough of this performance.
Mariachi Samurai has worked hard to promote the Mexican sound to an international audience, which goes a long way at preserving our heritage – which has been recognized by UNESCO as an intangible part of the Mexican identity.
The group also encourages cultural diversity and provides spaces for creative, intelligent and open-minded entertainment. They’ve also stepped up when Mexico needed assistance following the 2017 earthquakes. The group launched campaigns to collect money for the victims, which was delivered to communities across the country.
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