Dedicated to the memory of Filiberto Salmerón, one of Tierra Caliente’s great musicians: Don Fili enjoyed life for nearly a century, leaving a mark that will never disappear.

Filiberto Salmerón
(December 20, 1905 – May 7, 1998)

Filiberto Salmerón, nephew of the great composer J. Isaías Salmerón, taught music to many people in Tlapehuala, Guerrero, cradle of calentana music.

Several photos on the living room walls in his old house give witness to his contribution to the musical education of the town. In one, don Fili is surrounded by an orchestra made up of men and women who learned to play thanks to his dedication to music. In another, don Fili is a young man, next to his father, Lamberto, another great musician.

“When I met don Fili,” Lindajoy Fenley recalls, “he told me: ‘my mother didn’t want me to be a musician, but,’ he protested, ‘my dad is a musician.’ Then, making a gesture like drinking from a bottle, he said his mother was against musical careers because she thought some musicians drink too much. Don Fili laughed and his wife did, too. Doña Meche (Mercedes García Carbajal) loved to listen to Fili recite verses, even when they were slightly off color. That’s tradition.”

As an old man, Fili remembered his adventures and the dangers a musician’s life carries. He supported his family with more than one career. In addition to being a musician, he worked the land. He left music for various years, but when hi picked up his violin again, he played traditional music as if he never had let it go.

His sons also play music.

The following article was written by his son Rigoberto:

Tlapehuala, a town in Tierra Caliente, which is tucked away in the State of Guerrero, was the birthplace of some of Mexico’s finest violin virtuosos, Filiberto Salmerón Apolinar among them.

            Born on December 20, 1905 to Lamberto Salmerón, a musician and very good improvisational verse writer, and Angel Apolinar, don Fili lived nearly 93 years. He died May 7, 1998.

            When he was about five years old, Fili showed an interest in the violin. He practiced every day and he became an accomplished musician by the time he was twelve. At that time he formed part of a group his uncle J. Isaías Salmerón Pasternes directed.

            He played with the group for twelve years, mastering his uncle’s compositions. He then separated from the group, taking time to learn solfage and read and write musical notation. Slowly but surely, he learned to play alto, tenor and soprano sax as well as six-string guitar, guitarra panzona, clarinet and cello.

            Later he formed his own regional music group, organized an orchestra and directed a brass wind band. He was to earn a living from music throughout his long life.

            The highlights of his musical career include receiving first place in the first statewide regional music contest organized by the Guerrero state government, two performances in the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, and having taught music to many people including the members of brass bands in Santa Cruz de Villa Gómez, Michoacán, and Pinzan Morando and Ixcateopan, both in Guerrero. He also recorded eight long-playing records of regional music, with his sons Ezequiel, Juan, Miguel Ángel, Hugo, José Guadalupe and Rigoberto accompanying him on four.

            His artistic sensitivity and his virtuosity on the violin were preserved on those records. One of his greatest contributions to the folkloric archives was to have revived the Jarabe Calentano, a type of music that was played before the turn of the century, and was on the verge of extinction when he was young. His father, Lamberto, said that jarabes had been played frequently but hardly anyone remembered them anymore. This type of music was made up of various rhythms such as sones, gustos and corridas (the last being a fashion-moving type of music that is sung, but not to be confused with a corrido).

            Filiberto tried to recall the jarabes he learned when very young, but only remembered part of the words and part of the music. So he composed music and lyrics in the spirit of the pieces he partially remembered. And for this he is known as the Jarabe Calentano.

            Filiberto Salmerón has contributed to the preservation of calentana music by playing it, recording it and teaching it. He also composed numerous gustos, waltzes and funeral pieces as well as pasodobles, foxes, a corridor and at least one jarabe of his own.

            Although don Fili did not receive enough recognition when he was living, it is important that his work and talent receive the recognition that they deserve. His name lives on today when his sons perform as the Conjunto de Música Regional de Filiberto Salmerón of Tierra Caliente, Guerrero.