Celebrating the Mexican Tradition of Huapango Arribeño: Guillermo Velázquez y Los Leones de la Sierra de Xichú to Release ‘Serrano de Corazón’Smithsonian Folkways presents ‘Serrano de Corazón’ (Highlander at Heart), an album rooted in the Mexican musical tradition huapango arribeño as interpreted by Guillermo Velázquez and his Leones de la Sierra de Xichú. Featuring nine tracks lasting a total of 76 minutes, the collection embodies tradition, as well as the energy of annual topadas festivities – exciting, all-night duels between musicians in a New Year celebration.
A product of the mountains of Guanajuato, Mexico, huapango arribeño is the music associated with New Year festivities in which two ensembles face one another in an intense back-and-forth musical and poetic duel. The topada performance lasts for hours as thousands celebrate and stomp along. The music is played primarily by string instruments and follows a specific meter and poetic form to assemble lyrical narratives. The term huapango itself typically refers to the music’s signature rhythm, a 6/8 meter. On ‘Serrano de Corazón,’ the huapango arribeño ensemble maintains the traditional structure of two violins (primera and segunda vara), a guitarra quinta huapanguera (an eight-stringed bass-guitar played by the poet-practitioner or poeta), and vihuela or jarana (small, five-stringed chordophones).
Most of the songs on the album are written and performed by Guillermo Velázquez. The title track “Serrano de Corazón” features Velázquez on guitarra quinta huapanguera and main vocals. It is a brilliant example of his lyrical virtuosity and musical energy. The song features the lively 6/8 rhythm accompanied by a traditional son arribeño. “La Topada de Poetas” (The Poets’ Topada)also features Velázquez on main vocal and evokes the spirit of a topada, detailing the events of the New Year celebration from night into day.
After nearly 40 independent albums, collaborations with legends such as Pete Seeger and Óscar Chávez, and decades of international performances, he and his band of violins, guitarra quinta huapanguera, and jarana continue to breathe new life and excitement into the rich huapango arribeño tradition.
‘Serrano de Corazón’ Tracklisting:
- Serrano de corazón (Highlander at Heart)
- Saludo y pinto mi raya (I Extend Greetings and Stake My Claim)
- Brota mi canto y se ufana (My Voice Springs Forth Proudly)
- La topada de poetas (The Poets’ Topada)
- Nací en el Puerto de Palmas (I Was Born in El Puerto de Palmas)
- El huapango resplandece (Huapango Is Resplendent)
- Otro que mejor se queda (Another One Who Decides to Stay)
- Si todo fuera al revés (If Everything Were Reversed)
- Con un indignado amor (With an Indignant Love)