Son Jarocho

The lovely B introduced me to a whole new musical genre last week. This is Son Jarocho, Mexican folk music from the southern Veracruz region. It is a wacky mixture of Spanish, African and native music. Very much the counterpoint to Mariachi from the west coast of Mexico, Son Jarocho is the east coast equivalent. But whilst Mariachi is brass driven, Jorocho relies on a foundation set down by the arpa jarocha, a large 32-36 string harp tuned diatonically over five octaves. The harpist, who plays standing up, plays a bass line on the low strings with one hand and with the other supplies arpeggiated melodies on the higher strings.

Son Jarocho is very much an improvised form based on around eighty folk-based sones. Other than the arpa the principal instruments are the requinto and the jarana.

The requinto is a four stringed guitar plucked with a thin cowhorn pick. The best have a soundbox carved from a single piece of cedar.

The most common instrument in a Son Jarocho ensemble is the jarana. This is a descendent of the sixteenth century Spanish Baroque guitar with eight to twelve strings grouped in five courses.

Top groups for this sort of music are the Conjuntos of Lino Chavez (1922-1993) and Tlalixcoyan.
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