Mexican Music

Mexican Music

I’m standing in a subway car heading to midtown Manhattan.  The train is crowded and at a stop, I become aware of two short guys wearing cowboy hats, one with a guitar and the other with an accordion get on.   I’ve seen this before, these guys work the trains for money.  They play about sixty seconds of a song (what I think is Mexican music), they stop and then walk the subway car hat-in-hand asking for money.  They then leave the car and move to another at the next stop.  They’re self-employed.  (smile)

As I continue reading my magazine I notice myself feeling a little annoyed at this.  There was a kind of silence in the subway car, as silent as you can get in a subway car, and these guys were about to intrude on it. They are not doing this out of any love for their art or any authentic desire to share and move people with their music, I tell myself as I peer at them over the top of my magazine.   I see them survey the car and prepare to play, and my IT (voice in my head) says “This is a racket.  They’ve found their equivalent of shake the tree for fruit, so they go around from tree to tree shaking and picking up any fruit that falls down.”

They begin to play, guitar and accordion, and I direct my mind to return to my magazine.  Then a curious thing happens as this music fills the subway car from these two young men who clearly are going through the motions, or at least giving no indication that they are loving what they’re doing.

I begin to smile – despite myself.

The music which I can only describe as Mexican music transforms my mood from irritation to joy almost instantaneously.


The guy with the accordion isn’t even playing well and his grim expression shows a passion for his craft similar to that for a long line.

But here I am; really smiling now.

This very familiar music was without question just HAPPY music.  I often associate Mexican music from the old Westerns with horse-riders in black wearing big black Sombreros, drinking, laughing and shooting their pistols in the air Three Amigos style.  Apologies to Salma Hayek and the Mexican people.   All I know is I’m feeling happy. I let go of my resistance, drop my magazine and show my smiling face to the rest of the subway car.

My annoyance is gone now, and I can just listen and really appreciate how this music is making a difference for me, it really transformed my mood.  I find myself reaching into my pocket for some change to give these guys.  (Kind of silly to attempt retribution for making me feel good.)

mariachis in subway photo
Photo by belboo

But they’ve already passed by, hats-in-hand and are now waiting for the doors to open to proceed to their next gig.  They don’t even have the heart to really engage with people, to locate and pick up the fruit their tree shaking just produced.  Amazing.

I learned two things from this experience:

  1. First, it is possible for good to come from just going through the motions.  Regardless of how you feel about the activity taking out the garbage does good in the world.  I guess it’s the same for music, once you’re proficient at it.  I would have thought that someone playing music half-heartedly, inauthentically could have never produced such a feeling in another, but that was clearly not the case for me.
  2. Second, Mexican music or at least this type of Mexican music makes me feel good, puts me in a happy upbeat mood.  This is a great thing to learn as one of my fundamental practices is mood control.

I’m always observing my mood and seeking ways to alter it to one that has me be purposeful, cooperative, loving, friendly, optimistic etc.

There doesn’t seem to be a science to how this occurs and as this experience shows, some influence can bring you up or bring you down and there’s no explaining why – it just does.  I just make a note of what brings my mood up and down and try to repeat the ones that bring me up, and avoid the ones that bring me down.  I just put down Mexican music as something that brings me up.

Photo by Jos Diaz

One Response to Mexican Music

  1. I think music, like words, has a life of its own. The original composers of that Mexican song gave birth to a spirit that got expressed in spite of the mood and intent of the performers on the subway. You connected with the spirit of the song, not the musicians… the composer got expressed in spite of the medium. Very cool.

    You might like one of my InfinityPrinciple equations…
    beauty = connects / dissects

    You experienced more beauty when you stopped “dissecting” the performers, their intent and your circumstance and allowed yourself to connect with the music, the spirit, and most importantly yourself.

    About the science of mood control… I believe emotions are just our body expressing thoughts we’re unaware of… our folly is to try to control the emotion or the circumstances, instead of the thoughts… go ahead and allow yourself to express the emotion, but also notice the thought that’s underneath it… once your thoughts (conscious) are separate and distinct from your emotions, feelings, moods, etc. – you’ll gain more power in impacting your mood.

    For example, my depression always felt like a vicious cycle that I could not avoid… but I learned to notice that, for me, it was really just a habit of analyzing my sense of self, my sense of purpose, etc. It was my ego trying to dissect itself. Dissecting always creates a sense of separation, isolation, etc. Practicing connection, instead, enables me to be related, beautiful, etc.

    I hope this is useful for you or someone you know.

    Thanks for your blog… good stuff.

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.