From the southern coastal plain of Veracruz, son jarocho is harp music with a highly repetitive musical structure and improvisational lyrics. This Mexican genre of son demonstrates the more African and Creole influences in that part of the country.
A classic example of the son jarocho is "La Bamba," which features a distinct three-chord repeated pattern underlying a simple verse (or verses), which allow for variation and improvisation. Some jarocho songs feature call-and-response vocals as well as Cuban claves, a further demonstration of the African and Caribbean influences. A conjunto jarocho (jarocho ensemble) typically consists of one or two arpas jarochas (harps) along with guitar relatives the jarana and the requinto. The lead harpist also tends to be the lead singer, and will punctuate his or her verses with rapid passages of harp solos and underscore the lyrics with complex accompaniment. The requinto tends to add improvisational lines around the harp in what is overall a highly energetic form.
Jarocho songs are used to accompany several dances, which include the zapateado (footwork) characteristics found in several of Mexico's regional forms. One of the living legends of this genre is Graciana Silva, a jarocha (woman from Veracruz) who continues to perform and record this traditional form today. While the genre was not widely known outside Mexico, in the 1950s, Chicano rock musician Richie Valens recorded his seminal version of "La Bamba," and unknowingly exposed American teens to some of Mexico's traditional music history. Rebeca Mauleon