Natalia Lafourcade and her Bolero Revival

Recovering from a winter that went on for to long, the cheerful audience that visited the Warner Theater exclaimed “¡Viva México!”, as Natalia Lafourcade got on stage with her now iconic milkmaid braids and a guitar. Together with her band, the Mexican singer-songwriter brought an atmosphere full of joy to the District on a warm Sunday evening, joy that goes back decades and which performs a shared Latinidad.

IMG_9211
Natalia Lafourcade performing at the Warner Theater. Washington D.C., May 2018.

I remember watching Natalia’s videos on MTV Latin America for Mi Casa and of course, the unforgettable En el 2000. However, besides these songs from the Natalia and La Forquetina era, in more recent years, Natalia performs a repertoire that reminds her fans of Latin American artists whose careers peaked many decades ago – with traditional songs such as La Llorona or their own compositions.

For instance, in 2012, Natalia released a tribute album to Agustín Lara, under the name “Mujer Divina”. Agustín Lara (1897-1970) was a Mexican singer and composer, who is recognized as one of the most popular bolero performers. He was born in Veracruz, the same city where Natalia grew up and paid tribute to in her song Mi Tierra Veracruzana.

0b44236d50011079ed0c542c0b2e9e11
Agustín Lara and his (then) wife María Félix (1914-2002), a famous singer and actress from the Golden Age of Mexica cinema. Agustín composed María Bonita during their honeymoon.

Despite their popularity in Mexico with Agustín Lara, boleros originated in Cuba in the late 19th century. From there, they travelled to Puerto Rico and the rest of Latin America, where they became an iconic music genre shared across borders. Arguably, the Golden Age of Mexican cinema (1933-1964) played a major role in their popularity. Music was a central aspect of the films, with artists such as Toña la Negra and Los Panchos who brought this genre to broader audiences.

It’s feasible that our generation is celebrating this nostalgia through artists such as Natalia Lafourcade. Reminding us of the afternoons spent with our grandparents, in my case, listening to Radio Sinfonola in their house, or watching Pedro Infante movies with my grandma. For some of us, the bolero in itself evokes feelings of longing and love, not only through its lyrics but also through its instrumentation. It makes me wonder, what will nostalgia sound like for Latin Americans fifty years from now?