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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America


Published April 19, 2006


Since European contact (1519), Veracruz has been Mexico’s principal port, its link with Spain, Cuba and all of Spanish America, and the entry for immigrants, merchants, travelers and (during colonial times) enslaved Africans. Its Caribbean genesis made Veracruz a cultural crossroads for indigenous, European and African influences, and produced a characteristic music genre, the son jarocho. Lilting vocal harmonies, ringing jarana (small eight-stringed guitar), requinto (small four-stringed guitar), harp and hand percussion make the style hands-down the liveliest of Mexico’s string-band traditions. Some listeners may recognize its lyrical strains from the work of Los Lobos, but since 1997, southern California’s Conjunto Jardín has been the music’s most extraordinary North American proponent. Floreando (Flowering), their second release, yields a bright, articulate essay of mostly traditional material. But “De Puerto en Puerto” (From Port to Port)—a tribute to the cultural connections between Los Angeles, southeast Mexico and West Africa, and to the group’s own makeup—reveals an ability to create new material that both respects tradition and celebrates the music’s budding multicultural future.