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Rigoberto Alfaro is one of the most influential musicians in the history of mariachi music. If you listen to mariachi music, you have probably heard countless arrangements and recorded performances of his.
Rigoberto Alfaro Rodríguez was born in Yurécuaro, Michoacan on November 1, 1934, the fourth of eight children born to mariachi violinist Guadalupe Alfaro and his wife, Esperanza Rodríguez. When he was nine years old, Rioberto’s family moved to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, where they remained for five years. From Nuevo Laredo, they moved to Mexico City, where young Alfaro began his musical career as a guitar player in his father’s group, Mariachi Arandense, an ensemble that worked in the famous Plaza Garibaldi.
Mariachi Arandense had many talented musicians, and it wasn’t long before better groups began to recruit them. When this attrition caused his father’s mariachi to disband, Rigoberto took advantage of the respite to enroll in the Escuela Libre de Música y Declamación, where he was introduced to concepts that would later prove useful to him in writing musical arrangements.
Highly sought-after as a mariachi guitarist and vocalist, Alfaro was a member of many of Mexico’s best groups during the 1950s, including Los Mensajeros, Mariachi de Miguel Diaz, Mariachi Perla de Occidente, and Mariachi Jalisciense. As a member of Perla de Occidente, he participated in the first recordings of Javier Solis, and accompanied Pedro Infante on his final tour in 1957. In 1958, Rigoberto joined the greatest mariachi in the world: Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, where he would remain for 13 years.
During his tenure with Mariachi Vargas, Rigoberto Alfaro became leader of what would become known as the world’s greatest mariachi rhythm section, comprised of himself on guitar, Victor Cardenas on vihuela, Natividad Santiago on guitarrón, and Arturo Mendoza on harp. Together, these four musicians redefined the role of the mariachi rhythm section, and introduced countless innovations to mariachi music. 2002 Hall of Fame inductee Victor Cardenas considers himself an Alfaro protégé.
It wasn’t until his third year in Mariachi Vargas that Rigoberto began to write formal musical arrangements, launching the phase of his career for which he is best known today. During the 1960s, his involvement in arrangement and musical direction increased steadily. Though widely considered the greatest mariachi guitarist of all time, he put his beloved instrument aside and left Mariachi Vargas in 1970 to pursue these activities full time.
In his new career, Alfaro became a producer for a number of record companies, including Rex, Gas, Capitol, and Gamma. He was musical director of radio station XEQ’s Festival de la Canción Ranchera y Norteña for three years.
Alfaro has been folkloric director for many popular television programs, including Noches Tapatías, Este México Nuestro, Noche a Noche, El Estudio de Lola Beltrán; México, Magia y Encuentro; Estampas de México, and Siempre en Domingo. For over ten years, he has been musical director for Televisa’s annual Las Manañitas a la Virgen broadcast from the Basílica de Guadalupe. He also wrote original motion picture scores for El Sinaloense, Allá en el Rancho de las Flores, and other films.
Rigoberto’s original arrangements for recording artists include El Rey for José Alfredo Jiménez; Me Caí de La Nube for Cornelio Reyna; La Bikina for Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán; ¿De Qué Manera To Olvido? And Por Tu Maldito Amor for Vicente Fernandez; Piel de Niña for Alejandro Fernández; and La Muerte del Palomo for Rocío Dúrcal, just to name a few.
Other artists he has arranged for include, Juan Gabriel, Pep Aguilar, Ana Bárbara, Manuela Torres, Pedro Fernández, Alberto Vázquez, Rocío Banquells, Pablo Montero, Carmela y Rafael, Lola Beltrán, Amalia Mendoza, Miguel Aceves Mejía, Maria de Lourdes, Aída and Carlos Cuevas, Guadalupe Pineda, Lucha Villa, “El Piporro,” Rosenda Bernal, José María Napoleón, Juan Torres, Joan Sebastián, and innumerable others. Alfaro remains quite active today as an independent producer and director.