Officially Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 – October 15th each year and if you’re wondering about the unusual dates, check out the post below from the official US government site. But any time of year is good for exploring the wide diversity of cultures that share a Hispanic heritage by starting with the instruments that create their signature sounds and popular music. From Afro-Cuban bongo drums to Andean panpipes, from guitars that trace their roots back to Spain to new world guiros, making musical crafts is a great, hands-on way of exploring these rich cultural heritages.
We’ve just released this new E-book what explores the background of 10 musical instruments, offers crafts projects and also 5 black and white coloring pages for kids. Check out the link below from TeachersPayTeachers or get a copy free – until October 31st on DARIA’s world music for kids website. Make sure you scroll down, as this E-book give-away is the last item on the page, here:
This classic song from mariachi repertoire is so popular it is sometimes called the “second national anthem of Mexico.” Composed by Blas Galindo in the late 1800’s, this song from Jalisco, Mexico has many versions and variations but is loved and appreciated everywhere as an important part of Mexican folk culture.
What Does The Song Mean?
Since there are numerous variations in the lyrics, it’s hard to tell for certain what the song means. Clearly, it’s a sad song about lost or separated lovers. Here’s one popular version of the lyrics in Spanish.
“El Son de la Negra”
Negrita de mis pesares, hojas de papel volando. Negrita de mis pesares, hojas de papel volando.
A todos diles que sí pero no les digas cuándo. Así me dijiste a mí; Por eso vivo penando.
¿Cuándo me traes a mi negra? Que la quiero ver aquí con su rebozo de seda Que le traje de Tepic?
In the lyrics, the singer is asking about the woman that brings him sorrow. He says that she has told everyone “yes” but will not tell him “when”. That she has told him “yes” and because of that, he is suffering.
The last verse asks : “When will you bring my “negra”? I would like to see her here. In her silk shawl. That I brought from Tepic (the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of Nayarit).
Who Is “La Negra”?
The title and the use of the word “negra” in this song actually created a stir about a year ago on an English-speaking t.v. channel in the USA. A mariachi group was asked not to play this song because they felt the title used a derogatory term for a black woman (negra). However, most Latin American Spanish speakers recognize the words “negro/negra” as an affectionate term for a sweetheart, a phrase better translated as “my darling” or “my dear”, not as “black man or woman”.
Although it’s a truly unique and amazing–sounding instrument, there’s very little information available about the history of gourd water drums. It’s clear that they are used in certain areas in Africa and that they show up in Mayan archives as “bubulek” water drums. In present day Mexico they are called jicara de agua and their history can also be traced to the Yaqui and Yoeme Indigenous people who called these floating gourd water drums, baa wehai.
What, exactly is a gourd water drum? Generally made from 3 sturdy pieces of dried gourds, a small ring holds the larger “gourd bowl”, up-side-down in place. That larger gourd is filled with water. The smaller gourd is placed right-side-up, gently on the water’s surface where it is hit with a stick or tapped with fingers, palms or knuckles to create the unique, deep and resonant sound associated with this instrument.
While checking out LA born drummer and percussionist, Christopher Garcia, we found some really great information on the Yaqui and Yoeme roots of floating gourd water drums. Although several musicologists identify this drum as part of the Yaqui Deer Dance (Mazotiwua), Garcia explains how a special beater is used called a baa jiponia, made from a stick wrapped in a corn husk. He also shares some great pictures and basic information on a related instrument, called hirukiam which consist of a gourd facing down and a rasp laid across it, then scraped. The result is a “natural speaker” and another really unique sound creation. Links to Christopher Garcia’s music and website can be found below.
Watch this video from Germany and you’ll be able to both see and hear several techniques for playing the gourd water drum:
Michael Heralda of Aztec Stories Shows You How To Make A Gourd Water Drum
Also a wealth of information on ancient Mexican culture and musical traditions, Michael Heralda has two informative step-by-step videos that show you how to create your own gourd water drums. You’ll notice that his drums not only sound good, but are beautifully decorated. For more information on his music, instruments, stories and other resources, visit the link below.
Here are his two gourd water drum-making videos from Youtube:
With Brazil hosting the FIFA World Cup, we wanted to share the song “Futebol” by Chico Buarque that is so popular it even has it’s own documentary.
Written and performed below by Brazil’s Chico Buarque, this samba compares the art of a great soccer player with the artistry of a music composer or painter. The lyrics in Brazilian say that the soccer player is as creative as an artist looking for just the right moment for inspiration to come and acting upon it – with the precision of an arrow. And since Chico Buarque and most of Brazil are enthusiastic soccer fans, the song is filled with imagery from the game and the names of famous players such Pelé, Mané, Didí, Pagão, and Canhoteiro. You can see a live version (with Portuguese subtitles) of “Futebol” here:
The documentary that mixes soccer and soccer music is called “O Futebol” and is an homage to the Brazilian love of the game.
More Songs of Soccer
This song is actually one of three soccer songs from Brazil chosen by Betto Arcos, a writer and Latin American Music maven. Want to see his two other picks for great soccer songs? Check them out at this NPR Global Hit post from the show called “The World”
But who would guess that cultures all around the world would not only admire it’s beauty but also figure out that – with a few minor modifications – it becomes a completely functional, natural trumpet! Among others, there are conch trumpets heard in music from the South Pacific, Tibet, Korea and pre-Incan cultures. Archeological finds and older documents also place it in Aztec culture and ceremonies as well. Here’s a bit more about the Aztec conch shell trumpet.
Pictured here is a musician called a “quiquizoani” playing the conch shell. The name is in the Nahuatl Indigenous language of Mexico and this specific image can be found on page 23 of the Aztec Codex “Magliabecchi”, currently preserved and archived at the University of Utah in the United States.
One of the best sites for information on Aztec instruments, including great pictures from archeological sites and historical references is Mexicolore.com (see resources below). Their research shows that there were 7 different types of conch shells and that the largest was called the ‘quiquiztli’. As you might imagine, the shell trumpet was highly symbolic and associated with the breath of life as well as the rhythms of the sea. Similarly, it was associated with the call to prayer, marking time during the day and during the night, the moon, fertility and Ehécatl – the Aztec God of the Wind.
Research also shows that conch shell trumpets were used by the Aztec military in a manner similar to modern day bugles.
Conch Shells in The USA
Closer to home, conch shells are part of a unique contest in the Florida Keys. Although the tradition of blowing the conch trumpet dates back over 200 years, it was originally used mainly for maritime signaling. Recently, however, the contest is a lot more colorful with contestants that vary in age from 3 – 83 and even perform with unique outfits, hula hoops and other novelty approaches.
Want to find out more about this modern conch contest? Check out the link below for some amazing variations on this ancient musical theme
What Does A Conch Trumpet Sound Like?
Check out this short video where a young buy demonstrates how to cut the conch shell and how to practice getting the trumpet sound.
Few countries consider music so important that they actually designate a national instrument. Not so in Paraguay, where it’s beautiful and distinctive harp and harp music are considered national treasures and are loved throughout the region and the world.
Although there are many harps found in Europe, South America and across the globe, the Paraguayan harp is distinctively light, weighing only about 8 to 10 pounds. Tuned to a diatonic scale, the Paraguayan harp can have 32, 36, 38, 40, 42 or 46 strings and stands about 4 ½ to 5 feet tall.
But why talk about a Paraguayan harp, when you can listen to one? Here are four videos our favorite Paraguayan harp songs along with a bit of description and explanation.
400 Harps Play The Song “Pajaro Campana”
A classic of Paraguayan folk music, here you see 400 harps (yes, really 400 harps!) perform this beloved song. What is a pajaro campana? Literally a “bell bird”, most people agree that it’s the name for a bird heard around the capital city of Asunción whose call sounds like a bell.
This mega-concert for harps was held at the “Plaza Uruguaya” on July 15, 2012 to mark the 475th anniversary of the capital city of Asunción, Paraguay.
Pajaro Campana (The Bell Bird) Performed By Mariano y Ernesto
Here’s a second version of the same song. This time, you can hear two harps playing together in the form of a duet.
Harpist, Celso Duarte Plays The Song “Iguana “
Videotaped at a family concert in Carnegie Hall Dec 11, 2012, you can hear the distinctive voice of the Paraguayan harp as well as an ensemble of folk musicians playing shekere, quijada, upright bass and even dancing on a wooden box!
Moliendo Café Performed By Nicolas Carter on Paraguyan Harp
Moliendo Café means “grinding coffee” in English. The song was written by composer, Hugo Blanco and has a beautiful and haunting melody. Performed here as an instrumental by harpist, Nicolas Carter, lyrics to the song are below the video clip.
Many musical instruments are made from natural materials.
A few actually are the raw materials and can be played as instruments in their natural form. For instance, the pacay shaker is the seed pod of a large, beautiful tree that also creates the pacay fruit and bean – both foods used by Central and South American people dating back to Incan times!
So, what is a pacay tree? When fully grown, it can tower up to 60 feet and produces long seed pods – some over a foot in length. The ripe, bright green fruit are picked and eaten in two ways. The white fiber between the seeds is eaten as the fruit and the seeds are used in much the same way as any bean. A website called Phoenix Tropicals has lots of great growing tips about this warm climate tree for anyone interested in growing it outside of it’s native Central or South America.
What does the fruit of the pacay taste like? It’s sometimes called the ”ice cream bean” and people describe the fiber as “sweet” and “refreshing”. The seeds are also eaten. In Central America, the seeds are cooked and served like a bean or other vegetable. In Mexico, the seeds are roasted and sold as snacks or treats. And – obviously – if the seed pods are left to dry, the beans dry inside the pod and create the shaking and rattling sound that turns this from a food into a musical instrument.
How do you play a pacay shaker? Rattle it back and forth up and down, start slowly and build a crescendo. Hold it in one hand and tap it against the other. Or just sit back and admire it as a work of art of nature – one more of it’s beautiful and useful creations.
Wkipedia Page Containing Historic Information on the Pacay Tree
Although it isn’t exclusively about music, the blog hop listed by Multicultural Kid Blogs Hispanic Heritage Blog Hop has some incredible resources, great activities and fantastic prizes perfect for all ages and interests.
Discover new activities, songs, books, crafts and foods that educators and parents are sharing to celebrate this month marking the contributions of Hispanic cultures to the world.
National Hispanic Heritage Month was created in the USA under President Lyndon Johnson as a way to recognize contributions of Latin-American and Hispanic peoples to our country’s heritage. In Washington D.C., it is celebrated by a series of presentations, exhibits and activities but a variety of free resources are available at the government site that are used widely across the country and throughout the year.
The starting date for this month (September 15th) is a bit unusual and many people wonder why it begins in the middle of a month. The dates of September 15th to October 15th were chosen because they reflects a time period when eight Latin American countries declared their independence. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Niceragua declared their independence on September 15th. September 16th, 18th and the 21st mark the dates when Mexico, Chile, and Belize did so as well.
Participating in this month of education and celebration are the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
For a complete listing of resources, events and activities, including a section on teaching Hispanic heritage, visit the official website at the link below. For a series of musical crafts and activities that originate in Hispanic culture as well as two musical instrument give-aways, visit DARIA’s world music for children site below.
Chapchas are a truly unique rattle that originated in the Andes of South America. Made from the discarded hooves of goats or sheep strung onto a bracelet, this instrument is heard in much of the folk music of Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador and other countries of this region.
How are chapchas made? After the hooves are clipped and boiled to sterilize them, a needle is inserted into the upper part of the nails making a small hole. The hooves are then strung or sewn onto a colorful piece of fabric and each one of the dried hooves rattles against the others creating the sound of the instrument.
Why do Andean people use these unusual items as part of their musical instruments? The answer is simple. If you visit some of the remote villages in the high Andes, you’ll see that there are a minimum number of plants, no trees and few other materials that can be used to create instruments. Essentially everything is used, recycled or reused as part of lifestyle in the high mountains. And that includes the toenails of goats!
Although all cultures in the world make music, learning about unique instruments like the chapchas can be a great way to explore world cultures through music. You can hear chapchas as part of DARIA’s latest album of songs from the Andes and you can also color an image of this unique rattle at the link below.
Resources And Links
Free Chapchas Coloring Page from Teachers Pay Teachers: