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Drawing on memories from Mexico, two friends bring Banda to New Hampshire audiences

Father Marcos Gonzales dances to the music of Los Arrazadores de la Sierra.
Gaby Lozada
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NHPR
Father Marcos Gonzales dances to the music of Los Arrazadores de la Sierra.

Marvin Hernandez and Xavier Saavedra spent their teenage years listening to music from the northern region of Mexico. Now, at almost 50 years old, they share that same music with communities in New Hampshire through their band Arrazadores de la Sierra, named after other popular bands in their home country.

They started the band in 2012, but their friendship has since pushed them to venture into other businesses. They have a minimarket and a restaurant where their band and others play regularly.

Their day jobs consume most of their time, but both say they wouldn’t be able to live without making music. So every other week for the past decade, they’ve carved out time to practice.

They often perform at quinceañeras, birthdays, and weddings — but they also sometimes play at Latino festivals, like the one hosted at the Saint Aloysius of Gonzaga Parish in Nashua this weekend.

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Gaby Lozada
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Xavier Saavedra is the band's manager.

Saavedra can’t remember when he started playing music but knows it was at a young age. He has played for other bands but always wanted to create his own. In Arrazadores, he saw an opportunity to introduce Banda music to local Latino and American audiences.

After all these years, Saavedra says he sometimes gets anxious before playing, but after two or three songs, he forgets about it.

“I work really hard during the week,” he said, “so when I am on the stage, I find it relaxing.”

The musicians of Arrazadores said the last two years of the pandemic have been hard. Hernandez, the lead singer, said he finds life meaningless without music — and not having an opportunity to play during COVID was difficult. That’s part of what made this weekend’s festival feel so exciting.

“We are adapting again,” Hernandez said. “But bringing back Banda to our people feels great.”

Now, the musicians say they feel recharged. Arrazadores played for three hours under the sun at this weekend's festival in Nashua, as people swayed to the sound of the accordion while waiting in long lines for food.

Hernandez and Saavedra say they are ecstatic to be back in business.

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Gaby Lozada
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Marvin Hernandez, the lead singer, doesn’t have a favorite song. “I like all of them,” he said.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.

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