Son Jarocho: Music

Son Jarocho is an African-influenced rhythm with syncopated patterns, is characterized by the alternation of instrumental melodies and sung melodies called pregones. The verses alternated with a chorus form the structure of the sounds expressed in “Décima Espinela”: round of ten verses (closely related to the Cuban Guajiro point and the Canarian point, three Caribbean territories that share a language detached from everyday life in the high sea). 

The lyrics of the songs talk about community conditions, ways of interpreting and living in the world, music, poetry and dance are part of the Caribbean imagination populated by brunettes, witches, mermaids, peteneras, sailors and loneliness, experiences that connect us with daily life and its relationship with the sea. Even the white costume, which is only used for very special occasions, represents the breaking of the waves of the sea. 

It is part of ternary music (A: verse, B, A: verse), it is a rhythm sesquiáltero with syncopes and setbacks. The instruments used are: the requinto jarocho (4-5 strings), Jarana jarocha (8 strings, 1st, 2nd and 3rd according to size), jarocha harp, stage (percussion instrument, ideophone), donkey’s jaw, jarocho tambourine ( octagonal, similar to the Arab tambourines), the güiro, the marinbol, zanza (called mbira in Zimbabwe), and recently integrated the violin, the Colombian guacharaca and the Peruvian cajon.

The son generally accompanies zapateado dance, a percussive dance where the dancer strikes his shoe, boot or huarache against the tarima (wooden platform) or even the ground in certain styles. Sones are often danced by couples who alternate on the tarima. The dances are improvised within rhythmic themes of the particular song. Dancers follow each other’s rhythms and movements as well as those of the instrumentalists.

Each son has its unique rhythmic pattern that all instrumentalists and dancers play off of. Traditionally these sones are danced at social events called fandangos where musicians gather around the tarima while dancers take turns dancing. Sones can last from minutes to hours, depending on the mood of the crowd.

The Fandango is a “party” organized as a social, political or religious event that the whole community normally attends, dancers, musicians, versers and an audience. It is originated in the 17th century and has remained to this day specially in the state of Veracruz.

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