Music is an essential part of any culture; in some cases, it’s transferred from generations to generations, based on family traditions. In Mexico –and if you ask me, all over the world too! –, music gives us the opportunity to open our minds, senses and hearts into a flow of energy, harmony and fascinating emotions explode, filling our souls with the most enchanting feelings. Music is also a celebratory chant, filled with tradition, culture and identity! Today, we will embark upon a wonderful musical journey across the typical music from Veracruz, and focusing on a particular piece: La Bruja, meaning in English The Witch, a son Jarocho (this is a Veracruz folk song) composed and interpreted by Jose Gutierrez and the Ochoa brothers.
The Son Jarocho (jarocho is the denomination for the inhabitants of Veracruz) is a typical melody from the culture in Veracruz which began to unfold at the end of the 17th Century after the arrival of Spanish ships coming in from Europe, who brought goods into the new world, along with new traditions and cultural influences. We must remember that the traditional musical instruments were nonexistent in America back in those days; pre-Hispanic cultures used all kind of objects that made “sounds” like conches, clay figurines, dry plants, etc. to create their music. With their arrival, the Spaniards also brought the early versions of the instruments we know today, like guitars, harps, tambourines among others. And just like in other aspects, these were of huge influence for Mexico.
Taking in the Spanish influence and throughout the years, several musical instruments were adopted by the jarocha culture, therefore creating part of the vast and fascinating world of Mexican music. These basic instruments for this particular music style are: the harp, the tambourine, the jarana and the requinto (these last two are traditional small guitars); the combination of these instruments varies depending on what region it is played. The sonjarocho is usually played at parties called fandango, where music, zapateado (a style of dancing where they tap their feet) and dance platforms are held; these are essential elements to spread the jarocha culture, they are parties that reunite families and communities that gather to share food, singing, music and happiness.
“La Bruja” (the witch) is one of the best known sones, the song’s theme is completely under personal interpretation, but it is said that it’s about a single woman in the prowl of men, to catch them and make them her own. Maybe between the lyrics there is a darker myth that makes us think of the presence of a woman who comes at dawn and does misdeeds and mischievous acts. This is a clear example of the Mexican culture’s –which is somewhat “macho” – vulnerable side, showing women as strong and independent, since they have also inspired hundreds of songs, poems and other artistic expressions.