Son del Centro
*Local Record Review: 'Visions of the Sun' by Cham Kerem
*Local Record Review: 'However Strange' by Détective
*Local Records Review: 'Four Steps in Corsets' by Yellow Red Sparks
Ten years ago in the city of Santa Ana, a musical project centering around the son jarocho traditions of Veracruz, Mexico began. Out of those initial workshops, Son del Centro,
a community-based group, was formed. In 2006, the youthful members
crystallized their talents into the debut full-length release of Mi Jarana es mi Fusil.
What better way to commemorate ten years of their musical journey than by
releasing a sophomore follow-up? Doing just that, Son del Centro's self-titled twelve
track album is a definitive statement as to the strength, continuation
and maturation of its mission born out of El Centro Cultural de Mexico.
Produced by Quetzal Flores of the East LA band Quetzal, the songs of Son del Centro help continue the group's ethos of reinvesting all performance fees and album sales right back into the community center that birthed them. The album starts off on the right note with the infectious “Coco.” The jarana, marimbol, requinto, quijada and tarima combine to offer the genre's unique tapestry of sounds. The wonderfully nasal singing voice of Ana Urzua interchanges with other longtime members of the group including Luis Sarmiento.
The verses throughout the album are beautifully poignant and poetic, but when the young voices of the next generation join in on “Presidente,” the collective emotional force carries glimmers of hope for the future. Participants in el Centro's son jarocho workshop for kids step up and sing some of the lyrics they composed themselves: [translation mine]
Mr. President, I've come here to let you know / that immigrants are here to stay / I like peaches, I like pears, but I don't like that there's so much war / I like limes, I like lemons, but I don't like so much corruption!
The adult class gets its time to shine too on “Butaquito.” Other tracks like “Tuza” are geared to keep the fandangos going all night, closing with a nifty hand clap, quijada, and marimbol fade out. On Son del Centro, there's nothing controversial here; just great arrangements and music con sentimiento. I once exaggeratedly quipped that I've seen Son del Centro perform 189 times as they will take to any stage lending their music to whatever righteous cause or event. After the release of their sophomore album, I'll gladly see them 189 more times!
Those interested will also want to purchase a physical copy as the artwork on the album cover is as beautiful as the music carried inside it. Mural depictions, May Day protest art, and a Calle Cuatro street sign create a political aesthetic of Santa Ana to which the music of Son del Centro has intimately interwoven itself into over the years.
Son del Centro performs with Los Cojolites at the Orange County Educational Arts Academy, 825 N. Broadway, Santa Ana. Sat. 6 p.m. General admission $10, students $5, free for children under 11!
Gabriel San Roman is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and tallest Mexican in OC.