By Jeremy Quintin
Elm Staff Writer
Pop music has become a cultural image of the United States. Figures like Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga are trademark images of a musical style now almost inherently associated with America. However, because North America is actually a conglomeration of various cultures from the early colonial period, what most accurately describes American music is a rich cultural hodge-podge of genres ranging across the board. This past Friday was an illustration of that when the group Radio Jarocho presented our campus with a traditional combination of Spanish, Afro-Caribbean, and Mexican sounds known as “Son Jarocho”.
If anyone took the initiative this past Friday to go and check out Radio Jarocho, they were more than likely treated to something completely out-of-sync with what they ordinarily listen to. I know that for me, it was much like getting doused with a bucket of water. This isn’t to speak poorly of the band, but it certainly illustrates how shocking the change of sound can be to the ears.
The group comprises two things, both of which I was ignorant to beforehand. One is Son Jarocho, and the other is “Fandango”, a community celebration which involves Son Jarocho,, along with various other art forms such as dancing and poetry, that altogether create a spectacular party. It certainly sounds like a lot of fun, but because of the limitations of a live performance, Radio Jarocho could not bring the whole Son Jarocho experience to the stage.
Of the portion that could be brought, it was quite the thing to see, on top of something to hear. Each song that Radio Jarocho played was accompanied by a dance routine, which the percussionist performed. This is because (get ready for it) due to her nail lined shoes, her dancing also functioned as the percussion for each song. This is a great example of the coalition of art forms, in which different artistic disciplines often thought of as existing separately become one to exhibit new and interesting creations. Having the percussion be both a dance and an instrument is very ingenuitive. It also incorporates the audience to the point where they become additional musicians simply through dancing. Indeed, the band often asked members of the audience to come up to dance with the crew, making musicians out of us on the spot.
Though the majority of the performance was enjoyable, Radio Jarocho had a bit of a damper put on them due to the unfortunate acoustics of Hynson Lounge. While the idea behind the dancing percussionist is cool, the loudness of the dance at times would drown out the other musicians to the point where the lead instrument could not be heard over the banging. Some of this is likely due to the place of the performance, which had to be changed due to unforeseen circumstances known as a sprinkler going off in Hodson. Oh well.
Another issue is that a lyrical program was not provided like at “Hotchkiss@12”, and so if you either couldn’t hear what the band members said at the start of the song or don’t understand Spanish fluently, you would miss out on what each song was about. Despite this, the band was answering questions throughout the night, about their culture, their instruments, and their lyrics, so that people could gather the information they wanted straight from the members themselves.
Overall the performance was enjoyable despite minor complaints. A big point behind Radio Jarocho, their lead singer explained, is to keep alive a style of music that is at risk of disappearing even in its country of origin. That is a more than commendable task, and Radio Jarocho is doing their part to preserve a genre not to be missed out on.