Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Huasteco Music comes to the Y

Over the weekend, WILL AM 580 was on the radio (as usual) and suddenly, I realized I was listening to the beginning of a short on huasteco music. I recognized it instantly, considering myself a bit of an enthusiast...

You see, on March 2nd the University YMCA hosted a huasteco performance -- rare in the Midwest although intensely popular in the La Huasteca region of Mexico. Alex and his Chicago trio, Los Condenados Huastecos, regaled the 150 people in attendance at the Caritas art opening and huasteco performance.

Los Condenados Huastecos perform at the University YMCA at the U of I as part of an art and culture event celebrating immigrant life and raising awareness about immigrant rights. More photos on Flickr.
Dr. Alejandro Lugo of the Department of Anthropology introduced the trio with great aplomb, emphasizing the formal aspects of the music and jokingly providing several translations for the word "condenados," which literally means "condemned" but also mischievous and reprobate. With laughter and applause, the music filled Latzer Hall, including a banter-filled song called "El Querreque." In between improvised fiddling and impossibly high falsetto vocal stylings, Carlos GarcĂ­a's poetic interventions held the audience completely captive.

Brave attempts at dancing, by stomping to the difficult huapango rhythm. Learn how to dance it on YouTube.
By the end of the evening, a large group of people were attempting to dance to the difficult duple and triple meters, largely failing, but having a wonderful time doing it. A small child climbed on stage to be serenaded by Juan Rivera and his virtuosic violin. (I hear the toddler was born to an ethnomusicologist... it only makes sense that he'd be drawn to this humorous and heartwrenching form of traditional Mexican music.)

Juan Rivera of Los Condenados Huastecos serenades a smiling toddler.

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