Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In review--Sons from Veracruz

Radio Jarocho
Cafe Cafe
Chido Records

When world music fans think of traditional Mexican music, they usually think of rancheras or mariachi, lesser known, son jarocho hails from Veracruz and weds the musical traditions of former African slaves, indigenous people, and European colonialists.  Distinct features of son jarocho include rapid call & response vocals sung slightly flat, equally rapid rhythms strummed on ukulele size lutes (requinto and jarana) or a Mexican harp and percussive rhythms created by dancing feet (zapateado).  The infamous La Bamba hails from Veracruz and this music tradition.

I have mostly heard traditional versions of his music on Smithsonian Folkways recordings and on Conjunto Jardin’s Yerba Buena CD that featured both traditional and original son jarocho songs.  Hailing from the opposite coast in the US, Radio Jarocho has educated music fans in Washington, DC, New York, and Boston.  On the band’s recording Café Café, the musicians perform all original songs that mirror the Mexican song tradition.  According to the liner notes, the musicians used traditional songs as a template then added a fuller urban sound. 

While you won’t hear another cover of La Bamba on this disc, you will hear the title track with its quick-fire vocals and the slightly slower La Tristeza and Morena es la Virgen.  However, the spirited Se ve que sabes bailar with soaring vocals harmonizing with the quick tempo vocals will definitely grab your attention.  You can hear the old slave rhythms in Conga Le Lé and Afro-Latin origins also come through loud and clear on the closing track, Bemba y Tablao by Patricio Hidalgo, who also contributes guest vocals.