Son de Madera
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Son de Madera

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Mar
11
Son de Madera @ The Cedar Cultural Center

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Mar
10
Son de Madera @ O'Neil Auditorium

Carterville, Illinois, USA

Carterville, Illinois, USA

Oct
21
Son de Madera @ Latino Arts Inc

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

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Music

Press


By: Agustin Gurza
October 10, 2005

Little has been heard from outspoken lead singer Zack de la Rocha since he split five years ago from L.A.'s fierce rock-rap band Rage Against the Machine, one of the most powerful, politically charged acts in rock history. The once-electrifying performer has shunned the stage, avoided the press and delayed completion of his long-awaited solo album.

On Friday, De la Rocha reemerged in a surprisingly self-effacing way. He was billed as a guest artist with Mexico's Son de Madera, an excellent but little-known ensemble that plays the traditional folk music of Veracruz called son jarocho. Their performance was part of a lecture/entertainment series called First Fridays at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, sponsored by the institution in Exposition Park.

This must rank as one of the most understated rock star comebacks of all time. De la Rocha — his dreadlocks replaced by a frizzy Afro, his electric guitar by a small Mexican jarana — walked casually onstage in the sweltering Hall of North American Mammals to the cheers of fans crammed between diorama exhibits of wildlife along each side. He took his place inconspicuously in a lineup with four fellow guitarists, standing to the left and rear of the platform between the musk oxen and the stellar sea lions.
His low-key entrance signaled that this night was not about stardom or recapturing the glory days. It was, trite as it sounds, about the music, which lived up to the theme of the event, "The Shape of Things to Come."

Injecting De la Rocha into Son de Madera was like getting Aztec dancers to break dance. The marriage of his angry punk-rap ethos with son jarocho's lyrical, joyful spirit seemed incongruous at first — until you heard the startling results.

It was like liberating a beloved tradition. The essence of the earthy, acoustic sound was preserved while being transformed, even radicalized. The performance left the exciting impression that something totally new was being created.

The laboratory for this musical experiment has been the Highland Park garage of Chicano musicians Quetzal Flores and Martha Gonzalez, who also performed Friday with Quetzal, their own band, and sat in with Son de Madera.

While the De la Rocha encounter may seem unexpected, it's actually part of a deliberate effort to bring Chicano and Mexican musicians together through a network of collaborations called Fandango Sin Fronteras, with adherents from San Jose to Santa Ana. De la Rocha, a second-generation Chicano, started studying the jarana guitar two years ago and traveled this year to Veracruz for the annual son jarocho festival.

On Friday, he sometimes played along with the syncopated, counterpoint rhythms of the music, closing his eyes and singing the Spanish chorus with a blissful smile. At other times, he sang lead vocals on his own songs, making the English lyrics fit naturally by forcing the jarocho rhythms — carried on cajon (a percussive box), conga and upright bass — to adapt to his rock-rap phrasing.

De la Rocha proved his angry punk persona has not mellowed, turning dance beats into war chants while denouncing the Bush administration's "criminal negligence" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In a searing rap called "On Soto," inspired by troubles at Self-Help Graphics & Art, an East L.A. arts center, he compared Los Angeles to Baghdad and Chicanos to Iraqi insurgents. In the chorus, he encapsulated the power unleashed by the night's explosive fusion of cross-border cultures: Two histories clash in this mash of hip-hop slash son jarocho.

- Los Angeles Times


Kelsa McClellan
Cityfolk - Dayton, OH
November 2009

EXCELLENT! We were very pleased with the entire residency as well as the public performance. They were a great group to work with. And I should also mention that I listened to their music everyday for 5 days straight, and not only was I not tired of it, I fell more in love with it each day. And I've been listening to their CD since they left. They were absolutely phenomenal in so many ways, and everyone at Cityfolk felt the same way.
Thank you!
- Cityfolk


By: Daniel E. Sheehy
2009

Who has not heard of “La Bamba”? This melody traveled from its origins among the farming, ranching, and fishing communities of the southern coastal plain of Mexico’s Veracruz state to all corners of the Mexican republic and far beyond. It mirrors the 20th-century story of when rural traditional music met a rising commercial music industry and the rise to national and international prominence of the son jarocho, traditional music of this region. One of more than a dozen distinctive Mexican traditions of música regional—music rooted in a distinctive regional culture—the son jarocho first caught the wave of electronic media surging in Mexico in the 1930s and 1940s, and later became the darling of the folk revitalization and revival movement that began in the 1970s and continued into the 21st century. The members of Son de Madera have long been at the forefront of this revival/revitalization, drawing from sounds, styles, and musicians that remained at the margins of the more commercialized son jarocho while incorporating new sounds and stylistic perspectives.

Localized mestizo (creole) musical tradition in Veracruz is very old. Spanish Inquisition documents from the late 1700s mention the common people and sailors making local music and dance such as the scandalous “Torito” (Little Bull), filled with sexual innuendo in its lyrics and choreography. People of the region came to be known as jarochos, a term derived, according to some accounts, from the clubs (jaras) carried by the local militia instead of rifles. In the 1800s, writers described unique jarocho traditions of socializing, merrymaking, music, and dance, such as José María Esteva’s narrative in El Museo Mexicano, published in 1844, which painted a picture of the customs, dress, music, and dance traditions of the fandango, the prime occasion for community celebration. In 1930, when XEW, Mexico’s first powerful radio station, was launched in Mexico City, the son jarocho was one of a handful of regional traditions invited to be heard over the airwaves. Radio, the emerging recording industry, and cinema were enormously influential cultural filters that allowed a few forms of regional music into the public spotlight, to the exclusion of others. The commercial success of Veracruz musicians transplanted to the nation’s political and media capital of Mexico City exploited the new notion of star power and catapulted a polished and standardized form of the son jarocho into this newly formulated canon of national cultural identity, which included some regional traditions and excluded others.

Andrés Huesca, a Veracruz harpist and group leader, repackaged the son jarocho in the late 1930s and 1940s to fit the new popular music, cinematic, and cabaret show settings. He substituted the large regional harp from western Mexico, which he played standing up so as to be more visually imposing, for the shorter Veracruz harp of the time that was played while seated. For film and stage presentations, he prescribed uniform clothing, marked by loose, white guayabera shirts, evocative of the tropical coast, favored fixed-lyrics songs and standard arrangements over improvised texts and an impromptu performance approach, and instituted three-minute arrangements to fit the 78-rpm and LP-album track length of time. Los Costeños, the group he created, made commercial recordings and appeared in movies, projecting its stereotypical image of Veracruz music and appearance to major audiences. Huesca himself appeared in seventy-seven films, including Allá en el Rancho Grande (1936), the seminal comedia ranchera (country comedy), and had enormous public influence. Lino Chávez, a member of Los Costeños from the coastal municipality of Alvarado, later formed his own group, Conjunto Medellín de Lino Chávez, and made many LP recordings in the 1950s and 1960s that had major distribution and were played constantly on radio stations in Veracruz and other parts of Mexico. His group toured internationally with the Ballet Folklórico de Amalia Hernández, considered the “national” dance group of Mexico, further raising his profile.

Eventually, in the 1950s, the “golden era” of Mexican cinema and its predilection
for regional music stereotypes faded, and the music industry’s appetite for new sounds, artists, and repertoire that appealed to mass audiences left groups such as Chávez’s at the margins. Despite some new compositions written for the standard commercial ensemble of large harp (with 32 to 36 strings tuned diatonically), requinto jarocho (four-stringed melody guitar), jarana (strummed guitar with eight strings grouped in five courses), and six-stringed guitar, the repertoire of such groups stagnated and was “folklorized” into a canon of perhaps twenty pieces. Most pieces were marked by a relatively fixed set of lyrics that found their way onto commercial recordings. In the space of four decades (mid 1930s to 1970s), the dynamics of this musical tradit - Smithsonian Folkways


By: Maria Gallucci
February 9, 2010

Ramón Gutiérrez rapidly picks at the strings of his small, lightweight “guitarra de son,” his fingers expertly dancing up and down the guitar’s neck as he fills the room with traditional sounds of Veracruz’s “son jarocho” music.

Tereso Vega complements the steady strumming of his larger “jarana tercera” guitar with a soulful and throaty tenor. Juan Pérez, meanwhile, furiously plucks notes with his upright bass instrument, and Rubí Oseguera adds percussion and movement with the rhythmic clacks of her shoes and with artfully undulating hips.

The high-energy group, aptly named Son de Madera (Sound of Wood), for exactly 20 years has preserved the traditions of son jarocho music while keeping it contemporary and relevant hundreds of years from its start. As one of the genre’s greatest frontrunners, the quartet has successfully managed to take the indigenous, Spanish and African-inspired sounds from outside the humid Caribbean communities of its origins to a larger global audience.

Son de Madera recently celebrated the release of its fourth album, “Son de Mi Tierra” (“Sound of My Land”), with a live performance featuring 20 musicians in Mexico City’s Teatro de la Ciudad (City Theater). The 13-track disc features a cast of noted guest artists and was produced in collaboration with the U.S.-based Smithsonian Institute’s nonprofit record label, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

“There has been this revaluation of what is ours, which is our ancestry,” Gutiérrez told The News last week during rehearsals before the Saturday concert. “Our perspective is that it is important to conserve this music and to keep playing it, and that this music can be a lifestyle.

“The newest part of our album is that of the old - that Son de Madera is playing with veteran musicians of a high quality and top levels of interpretation and who originally came from the countryside,” he said.
“Jarocho” is the colloquial term for people or movements originating from the tropical Veracruz state and coastal portions of Tamaulipas.

Oseguera, who joined Son de Madera in 2007, said that the group speaks of the cultural history while maintaining its place in the present.

“Our music is now, it’s what we are living,” she said. “It doesn’t completely stay in the past; we take elements and adapt them according to our own experiences.”

León García, web producer and education coordinator at Folkways Recordings, explained that, “Son de Madera serves as a model for others in its incorporation of the best of grassroots traditional musicians in their contemporary interpretations of jarocho repertoire. The (group’s) members are activists and educators as well as excellent representatives of the best of Veracruz and Mexican folklore.”

Son de Madera’s prize-winning legacy begins back in 1990, when Gutiérrez, inspired by his jarocho-playing brothers and generations of family musicians, formed the group alongside Laura Rebolloso. The band professionalized tunes traditionally reserved for the “fandango” folk festivals in Veracruz and brought them to stages nationwide.

“I began to see that our musical genre was unique, and that what we did was special to this region of Mexico and to the world. My brothers had already started to emphasize that,” the frontman said.

“Twenty years ago, nobody gave us credit or thought that we could play a concert in the City Theater or abroad,” he said, noting that his group frequently plays shows across North America and Europe. “People sometimes feel that this music is peasant music, and nobody wants to seem like they’re stuck in the past or out of style.”

Throughout its course, the group has featured a number of dancers, violinists, harpists and marimba players, several of whom performed alongside the current quartet at the album release concert.

Gutiérrez said that the string-driven jarocho genre has remained a vibrant force for centuries because of its improvisational nature. The guitar chords, the percussive footwork and the lyrics – sung in stanzas by a “pregonero” (caller) – are reinvented each performance according to the performer’s gusto.

Son jarocho’s beginnings start around the time of Spanish colonization. Veracruz communities absorbed the hints of Arabic culture found in the conquistadors’ song and dance, as well as musical influences from Africans enslaved in the coastal state during the 16th and 17th centuries. Near the end of the 1800s, jarocho music was formally recognized as a defining part of Mexico’s cultural identity.

According to the Smithsonian record label, the Mexican government co-opted son jarocho and other traditional folk music as national cultural symbols during the 1910 revolution. With the growth of Mexican film and television industries came the widespread diffusion of the folkloric in urban centers miles away from rural coastal pueblos.

The colonial music took a turn for the contemporary with Chicano rocker Ritchi - The News (Mexico)


by Shannon Dudley & Martha Gonzalez
2009

Fandango is a fun word to say—you may have heard it in reference to a Spanish dance or on-line theater tickets—but it’s even more fun to experience, as people in Seattle are finding out. Since April of 2009, participants in the Seattle Fandango Project (SFP) have been practicing the music called son jarocho from Veracruz, Mexico, strumming jaranas, singing verses, and beating out rhythms with their feet on a raised stomp box called a tarima. In community centers and University of Washington classrooms they are learning not just the music and dance, but also the principles of convivencia (living/being together) that are embodied in the fandango celebration.

This practice of musical convivencia was introduced in Seattle by singer, dancer, and percussionist Martha Gonzalez, who enrolled at UW in 2008 to pursue a graduate degree in Women Studies. Her husband Quetzal Flores, a guitarist, producer, and community organizer, is the primary organizer of the Seattle Fandango Project. Both Gonzalez and Flores are members of the East Los Angeles band Quetzal. Both also have been engaged for more than a decade in exchanges with members of a community-music movement in Veracruz called Nuevo Movimiento Jaranero (the “new jaranero movement,” referring to someone who plays the jarana guitar).

Since the late 1970s this movement has sought to revive the son jarocho as a community practice, and to resist its commercial media and stage representations. Founders of the Nuevo Movimiento Jaranero were tired of dressing up in white suits and hats with red bandanas to get work at hotels, festivals, and television. They also were tired of hearing son jarocho played at fast tempos to impress people who didn’t know how to dance to the music. The “new jaraneros” set out to revive the swing, poetry, improvisation, and elegant cadence of son jarocho; but most importantly they revived the practice of community participation in the fandango.
photo: Matt Hilger

The Nuevo Movimiento Jaranero took shape through a process of research and reclamation. Young people learned from older musicians who had experienced the fandango as a participatory community event. Gilberto Gutierrez and his group Mono Blanco, for example, sought out and performed with Arcadio Hidalgo, a gifted versador (composer of verses) who in his youth had fought in the Mexican revolution. The younger musicians learned from Arcadio about music, about the revolution, and about convivencia in fandango. They organized music and dance workshops in their community for people of all ages to participate, and began to seed this practice in other communities, building ties between different towns and regions. Before long new groups began to make recordings and created a vibrant scene that offered professional opportunities for workshops and stage performances. To avoid creating a new orthodoxy of their own, professional groups in the movement, including Mono Blanco, Son de Madera, Chuchumbé, Los Utrera, Los Cojolites, Estansuela, Relicario, and Los Negritos continued to organize and participate in community fandangos, where they took part in a collective dialogue about the future of the tradition. This practice continues today, and many musicians in the movement contribute part of their earnings to the community centers that host free workshops and fandangos.

This vibrant scene caught the attention of a new generation of community-oriented Chicano artists in Los Angeles who began making trips to Veracruz in the early 2000s. Chicanos shared their own experiences and techniques of community building through art. Back in Los Angeles they shared what they had learned about the fandango and brought up musicians from Veracruz. This created a new interest in the living tradition of son jarocho, which most Chicanos had previously known mainly through commercial recordings (or through Ritchie Valens’ 1957 rock and roll remake of a traditional son jarocho called “La Bamba”). In 2002 Fandango Sin Fronteras (fandango without borders) was established as an informal musical dialogue between Chicanos and Jarochos. In 2004 members of Quetzal traveled to Mexico to help record and produce Son de Madera’s CD, “Las Orquestas del Dia.” In 2005, Son de Madera, one of the premier son jarocho ensembles from Veracruz, came to Los Angeles to perform with Quetzal at a fundraiser for the South Central Farm, an inner-city farm that the community had reclaimed from industrial wasteland, and from which the authorities were then trying to remove them. Through these and many other exchanges, Fandango Sin Fronteras has taken shape as a transnational musical dialogue rooted in the spirit of convivencia.

The Seattle Fandango Project (SFP) connects Seattle to Fandango Sin Fronteras and its community-building practices. SFP activities began in April 2009 with weekly workshops conducted by Gonzalez and Flores, and kicked into high gear during October with a residenc - Harmonic Dissidents Magazine: A Chronicle of Street Band Culture


Discography

Son de Mi Tierra (Smithsonian Folkways) - 2009

Las Orquestas del Día (TonaLuna Productions) - 2004

Raíces (ABahuman Productions) - 2000

Son de Madera (URTEX Digital Classics) - 1997

Photos

Bio

Taking its name from the mountainous region of northwestern Mexico, Son de Madera specializes in Son Jarocho, the improvisatory, string-driven music of Veracruz, Mexico featuring jarana and requinto “guitars,” call-and-response singing, and the rhythmic zapateado percussive dance style. For 20 years, Son de Madera has preserved the traditions of son jarocho music while keeping it contemporary and relevant hundreds of years from its inception. As one of the genre’s greatest frontrunners, the quartet has successfully managed to take the indigenous-, Spanish- and African-inspired sounds from outside the humid Caribbean communities of its origins to a larger global audience.

Son de Madera serves as a model for others in its incorporation of the best of grassroots traditional musicians in their contemporary interpretations of jarocho repertoire. The group’s members are activists and educators as well as excellent representatives of the best of Veracruz and Mexican folklore.

Son de Madera’s prize-winning legacy began back in 1990, when Ramon Gutiérrez, inspired by his jarocho-playing brothers and generations of family musicians, formed the group alongside Laura Rebolloso. The band adapted tunes traditionally reserved for the “fandango” folk festivals in Veracruz and brought them to stages nationwide.

The string-driven jarocho genre has remained a vibrant force for centuries because of its improvisational nature. The guitar chords, the percussive footwork and the lyrics – sung in stanzas by a “pregonero” (caller) – are reinvented each performance according to the performer’s gusto.

Son jarocho’s beginnings start around the time of Spanish colonization. Veracruz communities absorbed the hints of Arabic culture found in the conquistadors’ song and dance, as well as musical influences from Africans enslaved in the coastal state during the 16th and 17th centuries. Near the end of the 1800s, jarocho music was formally recognized as a defining part of Mexico’s cultural identity.

The Mexican government co-opted son jarocho and other traditional folk music as national cultural symbols during the 1910 revolution. With the growth of Mexican film and television industries came the widespread diffusion of the folkloric in urban centers miles away from rural coastal pueblos.

The colonial music took a turn for the contemporary with Chicano rocker Ritchie Valens’ rendition of the jarocho classic “La Bamba” and his 1987 biopic of the same name. Mexican rock groups including Café Tacuba and Quetzal, plus the Los Angeles-based Los Lobos, have also produced popularized recordings of son jarocho hits.

Son de Madera’s latest release, “Son de Mi Tierra,” is a tribute to son jarocho’s pure and historical traditions, void of any musical fusions, electric instruments or outside impositions. What’s next for Son de Madera, however, might just be anything but that.

Son de Madera is composed by:

Ramón Gutiérrez Hernández – Vocals, guitarra de son

Ramon co-founded Son de Madera with Andrés Vega in 1992 after both musicians were in the group Mono Blanco, which had established the revivial of Son Jarocho in the 1970s. Ramón’s brother Gilberto Gutierrez continues to be a pivotal member of that group. In addition to performing with Son de Madera, Ramón Gutierrez is also a luthier.

Rubí Oseguera – Zapateado (percussive dancing)

An anthropologist with a focus on the fiesta of fandango: the dance, the dancers, and their social life. She founded the group Chuchumbé with her brother, and has also danced with the groups Siquisirí and Mono Blanco. She teaches zapateado dancing at home in Mexico and around the world.

Andrés “Tereso” Vega – Vocals, jarana

Co-founded Son de Madera in 1992 with Ramón Gutierrez. Both had been in the group Mono Blanco, which was a leader in the 1970s revival of Son Jarocho music. He is the son of Andrés Vega Delfin, now in his 70s and still performing with Mono Blanco, a highly respected master of the son jarocho tradition.

Federico Zúñiga – Bass

Based in San Jose, California, he performs many styles of music including jazz, salsa, funk, rock, Son Jarocho, blues, R & B, and bolero.