The well-known and widespread saying, according to which mariachi is the only thing that makes us think about Mexico more than tequila, is not to be taken only as an inescapable quotation from a superficial tourist guide-book to the folklore of this big country to the south of the river Rio Grande. "Vivid colours of mariachi, its bright, clear, deep and harmonious melodies merge together into one to reveal the heart and the soul of Mexico", wrote Sylvia Gonzales in her book "Mexico: The Meeting of Two Cultures", showing in this way that even the definition of an expert cannot sometimes escape a popular idea of the most recognizable Mexican musical product.
Ivan Androiĉ, the singer and the founder of the mariachi band "Los Caballeros" has similar thoughts: "The notion of mariachi evokes a visual dimension that is wider than music. This is the image of arena, sand, bulls, people, scents ...".
Since their foundation in 1997 "Los Caballeros" have brought the pieces of this mosaic closer to Croatian and international audience in a very convincing and authentic way.
After having spent a year in the USA, in Kansas, where he met several Mexican musicians, with whom he sometimes performed, Ivan Androiĉ (whose love for South American music had been developing through his contact with some Bolivians in Zagreb, gathered around the group "Ayllu") got the idea of founding a similar band in Croatia, and "Los Caballeros" came into being in November 1997. The original idea was to have Ricardo Luque as a member of the band but due to his at that time already very active part in the performing of a very popular Croatian group "Cubismo" it wasn´t possible. "This is the reason I started to sing," says Ivan Androiĉ, "and I thought I would only play the vihuela in "Los Caballeros"."
Although being aware of the effect that Mexican music made on the show business of former Yugoslavia, thanks to the names ranging from Nikola Karoviĉ and Slavko Petroviĉ to the trio "Tividi" and ensemble "Magnifico", "Los Caballeros" didn´t from the very beginning want to incline to the popular entertainig version of this kind of Mexican music. "The notion of the so called classical mariachi in Mexico is different from that notion in Croatia", points out Ivan Androiĉ. In other words, the authentic repertoire and approach was for them more important than immediate popularity.
Their first appearance in public was at the Cinema Club "Zagreb" on 25th of April 1998 and two months later they made their debut on the National Croatian Television (HTV), appearing in the show called "Cro session". Their performances in various clubs enabled them to develop their performing routine and music expression and at the same time to test the reaction of the audience. The winter 1998/99 they spent at BP Club and at the same time they started to play at the restaurant Mex Cantina in Savska Street, where (thanks to the enthusiasm of the owner Mile Smiljiĉ) they became the trademark of the restaurant to such a degree that the only way to spend a pleasant Monday evening with "Los Caballeros" is to book a table in advance.
Knowing that during the last two decades Zagreb has accepted the offer of unconventional club attractions, if the audience realized that the thing that lies behind the dedication to the chosen idiom is conscientious and thorough work, "Los Caballeros" didn´t have to wait long to get a chance for affirmation in music recording industry. To enter the family of the performers of the record company "Aquarius" seemed a logical thing because of the support that company gave to the related group "Cubismo" and to a number of other not less interesting names. In February 1999 "Los Caballers" started recording their first album "Fiesta Mexicana" that was released in the same year in September.
Today, three years after the release of "Fiesta Mexicana" with its standards like Cielito lindo, Besame mucho, Guadalajara, Las mananitas, La negra, La bamba and many others, "Los Caballeros" wouldn´t change a thing. After all, this album happened to be their passport to the memorable experience of performing at the 7th International Mariachi and Charreria Festival in Guadalajara, Mexico, at the beginning of September 2000. To send that album was namely enough to the organizer to invite "Los Caballeros" to the Festival, where they were honoured to play side by side with the most popular mariachi bands, like Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan and Mariachi de America and where they could directly experience son jaliscience. Maybe the greatest experience they brought from Guadalajara was the realization that they can equally confront with any similar band out of Spanish-speaking area. They used their staying in Mexico to supply themselves with authentic traje de charro, characteristic suits that contribute to their stage identity in the same way their music does. Authentic Mexican instruments guitarron and vihuela had already been in their possession before their journey to Mexico.
They concluded the year 2000 with a big concert in the Concert Hall "Vatroslav Lisinski" and they have constantly been invited to perform at the theatres and concert halls throughout Croatia, as well as in Italy, Germany, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia and Hungary.
Their second album "Collecion bailable", released by Aquarius Records, represents a slight shift from the traditional mariachi sound and is based on cumbia and bolero rhythms.
In September 2002, with some new members, they went to Mexico for the second time to performe at the 9th International Mariachi and Charreria Festival in Guadalajara. This time they were twice honoured to performe at the well-known theatre Teatro Degollado - at the gala concert and at the special concert on the occasion of the Independence Day. During their stay in the homeland of mariachi music "Los Caballeros" shot a documentary called "Mariachi: the Soul of Mexico" for the American TV network PBS, with Placido Domingo as the producer and narrator. Mariachi "Los Caballeros" have intensively been preparing for new performances, knowing that their five years' mission has been met with positive response.
Mariachi in Croatia? Si senor!