Traditional Son Jarocho music performed in Bath, Group’s first United States tour

Published 12:09 am Monday, May 7, 2007

The dancing beats of Grupo Siquisiri — high-speed strumming, harmonizing vocals and rousing melodies — filled the interior of the St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Bath during a Sunday afternoon concert. The group performed traditional Son Jarocho music, a folkloric music from the Sotavento region of the State of Veracruz in Mexico.
This is the group’s first time in North Carolina and will only perform in Beaufort County during their first U.S. tour, said Wanda Johnson, director of the Beaufort County Arts Council.
Grupo Siquisiri performs today at Chocowinity Middle School at 9 a.m., she said.
The arts council arranged for the performances in Beaufort County, which were funded through grants from the Southern Arts Federation, National Endowment for the Arts and Weyerhaeuser Company.
Sunday’s performance was a success, with standing room only, despite some setbacks. “They flew in from Atlanta,” Johnson said. “Their luggage didn’t make the transfer from Charlotte,” she said.
Most of the group’s instruments were small enough to carry on the plane, except for the bass. Dennis Modlin, a musician from Bath, loaned his bass for the Sunday performance, Johnson said.
In their street clothes and straight from the airport in Greenville, the members of Grupo Siquisiri took center stage on time.
Announcer Rafael Figueroa Hernandez, who is the son of the group’s director, Rafael Figueroa Alaves, said Son Jarocho music was common during the colonial times in Veracruz.
Alaves, who founded the group 22 years ago, makes all of the instruments. He plays bass. The lead singer, Raul Martinez Acevedo, pays the “requinto,” which keeps the melody, said Hernandez. The twins, Antonio Perez Vergara and Margarito Perez Vergara, both pay the “jarana,” which keeps the rhythm.
All of the members of the group sing. With Son Jarocho music, “the singers change a lot of the melodies and improvise the lyrics,” Hernandez said. “It’s specifically made for dancing,” he said.
During a traditional performance, a platform would be placed in front of the musicians so that people could dance. These events were usually held behind their homes.
The group performed “El candil” or “The oil lamp” to reflect this traditional scene. They played “El Siquisiri,” which is always performed at the beginning of the musical gathering.
The Son Jarocho music has a unique mix of Spanish, African and indigenous influences. “Veracruz is different among all the states in Mexico,” Hernandez said. “It’s at the bottom, a long strip of land close to the ocean,” he said.
The state’s location made it “ a point of entrance for everything that came from outside,” Hernandez said. The foreign trade in Veracruz influenced the people and “you can feel it in the music,” he said.