Pulling strings: the accordion gets a lift in Mexico City

Miguel García’s obsession with town hall percussion goes back to the 1970s. He has been making home-made accordions for decades, at times replicating instruments and practices during his studies at Mexico City’s Conservatory of Music. “The accordion is an old instrument,” says the 63-year-old who now also holds a master’s degree in the instrument. “It’s in the tradition.”

Some time ago, García met the head of Mexico City’s city council, Blanca Estrada Aquino, in a cafe. He told her he’d been producing instruments like the ones he learned, as well as playing an accordion, for years. “How do you do that?” she wanted to know. “I told her I would become a social worker,” says García. “That’s what I do.”

García has instead immersed himself in promoting the accordion. “I want to be an instrument of the maestro,” he says. “The minister of accordion, of music, of culture.”

Miguel García, head of the city’s music arm – the local Accordion Club – raises an accordion that no longer has a strap. Photograph: Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images

In June 2017, Mexico City’s culture commissioner, Rita Ortega, who took over her post in May, hosted a “Brusche!” festival in the city’s Ciudad Quintero. It was celebrated with a group performance called One Resonator in Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral, featuring the works of iconic Mexican and Latin American musicians.

Several hundred participants congregated at the Viñales bar in the central Roma district. García set up a “billboards” to announce the event, with messages written on this striped laminated tin. The music that he played ranged from the music of Honduras, where he was born, to Cuban music and South American sounds. “When we make music there’s no language,” he says. “It’s music of all kinds.”

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The Accordion Club is García’s answer to that lack of language. The group meets six days a week to learn and perform at various venues and festivals. “We create a culture that supports those who don’t have much, who have never had it,” he says. “We build tools for the people who are in need of helping us continue growing.”

The small number of people involved means that things are geared towards improving those who interact with it. People who do the fundraising, buy and sell instruments, get advice from the club’s office. “No one asks us for a dime,” García says. “All of the profits go to performing. It’s a matter of community, and the body of [just] ten is growing.”

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