Music

Radio Jarocho and Zenen Zeferino Celebrate Son Jarocho on 'Rios de Norte y Sur' (album stream)

Jedd Beaudoin

Afro-Carribean and Mexican indigenous music come together in this wonderfully celebratory music from Radio Jarocho and Zenen Zeferino.

Son jarocho, which combines Spanish, Afro-Caribbean and Mexican indigenous music is experiencing something of a revival. The wildly upbeat music, customarily played in the fandango, a community celebration in which people gather to play, sing and dance, can be heard across the new album Rios de Norte y Sur by New York City's Radio Jarocho and Zenen Zeferino.

Radio Jarocho has become a live favorite in recent years with performances at the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center and on VICE TV. The band has also shared the stage with Calexico and others. The group's celebratory live shows are particularly remarkable for singer Julia del Palacio's performances as she adds a rhythmic element to the gigs by dancing on a tarima (pallet). The joining of this act and jarana player and singer Zeferino is especially inspired. Having come of age in a celebrated family of traditional musicians who shared indigenous Mexican and Afro-Mexican heritage, he has become a kind of central figure in the music and an important influence on Radio Jarocho.

The group, which also features Juan Carlos Marin and Carlos Cuestas (vocals, requinto) and Victor Murillo (bass, leona), is concerned with tradition but not tethered to it, incorporating double bass and adding a flair that is uniquely Radio Jarocho. Among the album's high points are "El Misterio", a tribute to Zeferino's recently deceased brother and a cautionary tale about the destruction of the environment. "Cascabel" focuses its attention on the rattlesnake, a recurring figure in son jarocho music and culture, while "Conga de San Benito" shines light on the Afro-Caribbean influence heard in the music as.

It's difficult, listening to this record, not to feel the celebration escaping the speakers and inspiring the listener to pick up their feet and move with the music. Pieces such as "La Vieja" and "Baluja" remind us that life moves quickly, without apology, and that sometimes the best thing we can do to celebrate/acknowledge this is to dance and sing. Really, what else is there?

The members of Radio Jarocho say this of their latest offering: "This exciting collaboration with Zenen Zeferino has led us to explore new sounds and push the boundaries of the traditional son jarocho style. The rhythms, the poetry, the instrumentation in Rios de Norte y Sur all speak about our experience as Mexicans in New York. We're nostalgic for our land and our roots, but we've also become part of the cultural fabric of the city and we're here to stay."

Rios de Norte y Sur arrives Friday, 11 May. Zeferino and Radio Jarocho will celebrate with a 10 May gig at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater in New York City.

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