Arhoolie Records’ revered Mexican music collection is now online

Sometimes it takes an outsider to understand the true value of a cultural treasure hidden in plain sight. In the case of the Mexican and Mexican-American music that bound and defined evolving communities across the Southwest, an unlikely champion emerged in the person of Chris Strachwitz.

He was a teenager when his German family resettled in Santa Barbara after being displaced at the end of World War II, and it wasn’t long before American roots music became an abiding obsession. With his El Cerrito-based Arhoolie Records he made and collected a vast trove of recordings, and at a time when Mexican music was largely invisible to non-Latino audiences he started acquiring records that documented a constellation of styles, with a particular focus on accordion-driven norteño music.

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