Las Cafeteras on the Strict Rules of Son Jarocho Music
Editor's note: This week Erica E. Phillips tells the remarkable story of Los Angeles group Las Cafeteras, a seven-piece who play a traditional type of Veracruz music called Son Jarocho. But they're controversial because they put their own spin on it -- merging a punk ethos, improvised verses, and even freestyle rapping.
It's going over gangbusters with fans, but the city's Son Jarocho old guard are far from thrilled. Here are some outtakes from Phillips' interviews with Las Cafeteras' members, in which they discuss Son Jarocho's strict rules and how they got into playing it.
On the rules of Son Jarocho:
Hector Flores: If someone's singing, the volume should drop down and the dancing should not be hard. Someone cannot get on the tarima when someone is singing. That's just something you don't do.
Leah Gallegos: There's some songs that only women can dance to, or can only be danced by partners, male-female. [Some] spaces are very strict on enforcing all those rules, [but] some spaces are more lenient.
David: To us the tradition is obviously important and the music is very beautiful. But also, to us, it's really important that youth are involved -- that folks who have never been part of any space like this. So if someone kind of goes against the rules, we're not going to knock them very much. We want people to participate and we want people to feel good. If something makes you feel good we want you to express that feeling. That sometimes isn't so popular, you know, but that for us is important.
On attending a Son Jarocho "band camp" in Mexico:
Daniel French: Most of us went to a yearly sort of Son Jarocho band camp -- minus the flute -- which members of Los Cojolites put on at their ranch in Veracruz. The ranch is called Luna Negra, on the Isla de Tacamichapan. This 'Seminario de Son Jarocho' is a weeklong band camp/Woodstock encampment next to a beautiful river in the savannah of Veracruz. There we played every night for hours after workshops with master musicians, dancers, cooks, anthropologists -- learning the culture of the land.
On how Hector coerced Annette Torres, his and David's aunt, to play Son Jarocho:
Annette: Hector met up with Angie and then he mobilized the whole family to go and that became our Saturday for the next four years. We went to the Eastside Café and we just started showing up every Saturday. They said, 'We won't start classes unless you get six people to show up,' so Hector was just, like, on it, hitting up everybody.
Hector: My aunt [had] never participated in EastSide Café. But because there was an actual project to get plugged into -- music, something [she] wanted to learn -- that was the way. Que no?