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Mexico Music Festival 2010

by Chiho Iuchi

Yuriko Kuronuma, a renowned Japanese violinist based in Mexico, never gives up.

Kuronuma has reorganized the Mexico Music Festival, which commemorates 400 years of relations between Mexico and Japan. The event was scheduled to be held last May, but was canceled due to the H1N1 flu outbreak in Mexico then.

“We were about to leave for Japan,” recalls Kuronuma. But the escalating situation made her fear about the return journey. “It was a painful choice to cancel the performance.”

However, from that moment she vowed to make it up.

“I couldn’t just say, ‘forget about it,’ to the audiences and my fellow performers, who had been looking forward to the festival.”

Fortunately, the Kioi Hall, which Kuronuma had had her heart set on for their performance, became available on Jan. 18. On top of that, all of the performers were also available at that time. It seemed as if fate was on her side.

After settling in Mexico in 1972, Kuronuma founded Academia Yuriko Kuronuma A.C., her private music school for Mexican children, in 1980 in the Coyoacan district of Mexico City. Since 1985, Kuronuma has undertaken her school’s Japan tours several times giving concerts with her young students, among whom Adrian Justus has become internationally acclaimed violinist.

Solistas Mexico Japon, a string ensemble that will make their Japanese debut at the upcoming festival, was formed in 2007. It is comprised of Mexican and Japanese musicians who have studied and/or taught at Kuronuma’s school.

“It had been my dream to make an ensemble in which we perform together. It is like a symbol of friendship between two countries,” says Kuronuma.

The ensemble will introduce pieces by Mexican composers, such as Ricardo Castro, Manuel Maria Ponce and Blas Galindo, and collaborate with Justus as a soloist, performing German-American Franz Waxman’s “Carmen Fantasie” and Argentine Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango.”

Also featured are two Mexican singers, soprano Encarnacion Vazquez and tenor Angel Ruz, who performed in Japan in 2008 at Japan’s Ikuma Dan’s opera “Yuzuru” (“Twilight Crane”), which was pulled off in impressively perfect Japanese. The opera was produced by Kuronuma with an all-Mexican cast. This time the performers will sing Mexican songs, including Agustin Lara’s “Granada” and Quirino Mendoza’s “Cielito Lindo,” accompanied or led by pianist-conductor James Demster.

The program lines up various short pieces so that audiences are able to enjoy a wide range of Mexican music in one night, which Kuronuma likens to a Japanese makunouchi bento (assorted lunch box).

According to Kuronuma, European classical music has gradually taken root in Mexico since the Spanish conquest in 1521. After the Mexican revolution in 1910, the precolonial indigenous culture was rediscovered and integrated with the European style. Due to this multicultural amalgam, Mexican people are flexible and open to different cultures.

“Mexican people really love music. They enjoy pop and rock, as well as masterpieces by Beethoven or Schubert, without caring for genres, names nor nationalities,” says Kuronuma. “Good music is like delicious food, attracting people all over the world without the need for translation.”

Mexico Music Festival 2010 will be held at Kioi Hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost ¥5,000. For more information, call (03) 3205-2032.