In heartland of Mexican banda, some push to limit strolling beach musicians

By Thomson Reuters Apr 12, 2024 | 5:56 PM

By Alberto Fajardo and Jose Cortes

MAZATLAN, Mexico (Reuters) – As Mexican banda music scales new heights globally, a festering dispute in the genre’s traditional home turf pits frustrated hotel owners against the strolling ensembles that play songs on the beach at all hours of the day and night.

The dispute has played out in Mazatlan, Mexico’s sunkissed Pacific beach resort, where for years banda musicians have entertained tourists for tips, but lately hotels field a growing number of noise complaints from mostly older and foreign tourists.

Some of the hotel owners want authorities to enforce an existing law that limits when musicians can play on the beach and in public plazas.

“There are lots of people who have dinner and want to go to sleep,” said Jose Gamez, a member of Mazatlan’s main hotel association, noting the groups often give impromptu concerts on the beach late into the night.

“That’s the part that should be controlled and regulated.”

Banda, a form of regional Mexican music featuring boisterous brass instruments including tubas and trumpets, has recently skyrocketed in popularity, in part due to young superstars like Peso Pluma.

Last year, his music was the fifth most-streamed on music app Spotify, just behind pop music juggernauts Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, The Weekend and Drake.

Local banda musicians argue efforts to reign them in are futile.

“This is the music that represents Mazatlan at the national and international level. It’s impossible to try to prohibit it,” said Francisco, who declined to provide his surname, while his fellow musicians set up behind him amid a throng of tourists huddled under umbrellas.

The dispute also highlights differing views among visitors, with some Mexican tourists backing the musicians as a fundamental part of the local culture, while some foreigners take a more nuanced view.

“We came back to hear more!” said a giggling Christy Upman, a tourist from the United States, saying initially she was unbothered.

“But when you’re very close and it’s very loud, that can be overwhelming.”

(Reporting by Alberto Fajardo and Jose Cortes; Writing by David Alire Garcia and Josie Kao)