The musical group, which was formed in 2004, gets its name from a 17th century style of song for voice and instrumental accompaniment that recreates stories from literary and musical pieces of the time in the state of Puebla, Mexico.
Since it’s inception, the group has been traveling across Mexico, performing in churches, at festivals, and in museums. They’ve performed at the renowned Mexico City institutions such as the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Festival Cultural de Zacatecas, and the Palacio de Bellas Artes. They also recorded the soundtrack to La Leyenda de la Nahuala, a Mexican animated film set in Puebla at the turn of the 19th century. In 2010, the group traveled to Italy to perform at the Castello del Buonconsiglio and the Abbey of San Lorenzo.
During a tour through its home state of Puebla, the group made a special effort to visit remote and marginalized communities. Puebla’s capital city of the same name is one of the most industrialized in Mexico, but that wealth hasn’t spread to other areas in the state, thus creating an economic gap and a lack of investment in Puebla’s rural areas. As a result, the state has the third highest level of poverty in Mexico.
Although Los Tonos Humanos’ music employs a style of brevity, the songs tell the Puebla stories with beauty and complexity. The instruments, which are not available commercially, are replicas of those that were used during the 17th century.
Instituto Cultural de México Director Mónica del Arenal told the Rivard Report Wednesday that Puebla is a lesser known part of Mexico that is beginning to receive recognition.
“We always think of Mariachi when it comes to Mexican music,” del Arenal said. “But we also have performances of early music. We have a period of 17th and 18th century baroque music that is different from Spain’s. This viceroyalty period in Mexico produced very beautiful, distinctive music.”
The theme for the music program is “Sacred and Profane” and features both religious and non-religious music, del Arenal explained.
“This is why we are having the program at Mission Concepción,” she said. “That is also from the 18th century, so they go together. And what better place for this kind of recreation than at (SA Museum of Art)?”
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Los Tonos Humanos – comprised of Manuel Mejía, Elisa Ávalos, and Omar Ruiz García – is touring around Texas and will perform in Dallas and Austin before coming to San Antonio, a visit organized by the Instituto Cultural de México in conjunction with the Consulate of Mexico in San Antonio and the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation, part of the Mexican Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Del Arenal said that Los Tonos Humanos’ performances are the first programs in a push to show the San Antonio community different phases of Mexican culture. The Instituto Cultural is organizing more performances that highlight lesser-known aspects of the culture, she added.
Both of Los Tonos Humanos’ performances at the SA Museum of Art and Mission Concepción are from 7-8 p.m. The shows are free and open to the public, but space is limited.
Top image: Manuel Mejía, Elisa Ávalos, and Omar Ruiz García of Los Tonos Humanos. Photo by Fernando Aceves.