Los Macorinos, the unsung heroes of Latin and Mexican music

You know their sound when you hear them. They have been around for decades.

Today Los Macorinos, made up of guitarists Juan Carlos Allende and Miguel Peña, released their first instrumental album titled Nosotros.

As a guitar duo, Los Macorinos have a unique style. Peña plays the rhythmic base, a bit of harmony and some flourishes. Allende plays the melody. Sometimes their sound is a confluence of South American musical traditions, as in the chanson sombra. Other times their sound is steeped in the Mexican ranchera guitar style, as in the classic Olvido Cross.

“With their music, they elevate our feelings, always fun and always concerned with the beauty of every note they play, explains singer Lila Downs.

Allende and Peña began playing as a duo when Chavela Vargas recruited them to accompany him on a legendary comeback tour in 2003. They adapted to his needs with a sparse and intimate style. Peña says Vargas didn’t just sing, she transmitted.

“Every word had an intention. When she said ‘Drink this bottle with me!’ she would say it in such a way that she would convey her intent to the public,” he says. Their working relationship lasted 10 years, until his death in August 2012.

But long before they began accompanying Vargas, Allende and Peña had distinct and notable careers. Allende was a cellist in a symphony orchestra in Argentina (he later switched to classical guitar). Peña worked full time as the guitarist for Mexican pop singer José José.

Over the years they have worked with several artists who admire their sound. In early 2017, Allende and Peña were invited to record two albums with the pop singer Nathalie Lafourcade. That year, Lafourcade’s first album with Allende and Peña, titled Musa, Vol 2., won a Latin Grammy.

Singer Eugenia Leonwho produced Nosotros attribute the success of Pena and Allende to a particular cachet.

“Their work brings together a significant period in the history of Mexican music that culminated in their work as Los Macorinos,” says Leon. “And with this album, I’m sure a lot of young musicians will follow their school.”

Violinist, guitarist and singer Ernesto Anaya agrees. He says Allende and Peña are the unsung heroes behind many projects, but in the end what matters is who they are as musicians.

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