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A review written for The Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Linton Corbie
Son Huasteco is the stuff that evokes the foot-stomping revelry at parties in northern Mexico. It's one of the most popular of the eight styles of Mexican music known as Son, and it dates back to the end of the nineteenth century. The Huasteca region of Mexico comprises six states stretching from the north-east to the center of the country, and there, as elsewhere in Mexico, the music is a product of the meeting of Spanish, African, and indigenous cultures. It's acoustic music performed mainly on stringed instruments such as huapanguera guitar, violin, and jarana guitar. Almost without exception, vocals figure very prominently in this musical style. As a matter of fact, a fine falsetto voice and the ability of both vocalist and instrumentalist to improvise to suit every occasion are highly favored assets. Needless to say, the finest bands possess this faculty to a very high degree ...much to the delight of their devoted fans. El Caiman Sones Huastecos is the result of a very noble attempt by the Corason record label to present the finest Mexican bands performing the Son Huasteco. It features ten bands performing twenty-two songs. The recordings encompass a period from as early as 1971 to the present. A few of these groups have made other recordings but most of them, though enjoying legendary status amongst peers and fans in their region, have never before appeared on record.
Because this album is devoted solely to a particular style and category of music, it may seem upon first listening that most of it sounds alike. However, the music is so exciting, lovely and moving that one finds oneself drawn into every selection. It is while listening at that deeper level that one is able to perceive the variations and uniqueness of interpretation which each group brings to the repertoire. One is drawn in first by the sweetness, rhythm and nostalgia of the music and then securely hooked by the depth of feeling and musicianship of the performers.
I particularly enjoyed the selections by Los Caporales, Los Hermanos Perez Maya, Los Caimanes and the rootsy-sounding female singer, Esperanza Zumaya accompanied by Los Trovadores del Panuco. Zumaya is the only female singer featured on this album. Though admired for their considerable talents in the Son Huasteco tradition, female vocalists still have a long way to go before they are accorded the same treatment as male singers in this artform.
Another group that really struck me was Perla Tamaulipeca. This band originated in Victoria, Tamaulipas. It was the only group that exhibited the approach of two members doing the lead vocals in harmony. Typically, when Huasteco groups have more than one singer, each vocalist takes turns in performing the lead. The falsetto harmonies created by Oswaldo Castillo and Jose Moreno of Perla Tamaulipeca were absolutely beautiful.
This CD with its very detailed liner notes represents an important document on the history and current standing of Mexican folklore. It also provides a means by which lovers of Latin music everywhere can enjoy a deeper and more well-rounded knowledge of the history and development of this wonderful musical expression.