I wasn’t expecting much other than a good time. It was The Hollywood Cemetery’s annual Dia De Los Muertos celebration. I wanted to check out the altars, have some Champurrado, a shot of tequila and some Pan De Muerto. As I walked in the cemetery I soon found out that two of the best Son Jarocho groups were going to perform that evening. Son De Madera and Los Cojolites, both from Vera Cruz, Mexico, are the Beatles and The Rolling Stones or the Biggie and Tupac of Son Jarocho. Trouble was that they going to perform on two different stages at the exact same time. Oh man, what to do?
Son Jarocho is traditional Mexican music that fuses indigenous, Spanish and African styles. It originated in the port towns of Vera Cruz, a region of Mexico located off the Gulf of Mexico. The instruments that are used for Son Jarocho are also used in other Mexican music with the addition of various percussion instruments with roots in African and Spanish/Moorish culture. It is music based on improvisation, both musically and lyrically. Imagine a rapper free styling verses while improvising on the guitar.
I had seen Los Cojolites earlier this year at Self-Help Graphics in East L.A. Their short set was absolutely jaw dropping. However, in the spirit of community, Los Cojolites relinquished the stage to other performers who were not up to par with the group and I ended up leaving early. Son De Madera was one of those groups I had always wanted to see but never got around to. Because of that, the battle of the dueling stages was won by the stage with Son De Madera on it. Son De Madera are traditionalists to a point. One of the Requintos (an acoustic guitar used for playing the lead guitar parts in Son Jarocho music) is put through an amp with effects pedals, which creates a washy, dream-like sound. Also included in the group is a stand-up baby bass, compliments of East L.A. native Juan Perez and Zapateado supplied by the beautiful Rubí del Carmen Oseguera. The minute they played their first note I was lost in their world of improvisations and melodies. It had the earthiness of the Mexican culture mixed with the seduction of the Moorish culture. None of that was lost, even with Son De Madera's modern take on their traditional sound.