WHAT IS JOROPO
The word Joropo encompasses a tradition which includes village fiestas,
poetry, singing, music and dance in a form of popular expression which is
constantly evolving. Improvised creativity flourish on existing structures
and defined patterns of style.
Its origins date from ancient Iberian music
from the XVII and XVIII Centuries, such as the multiple fandango, the folias,
peteneras, jotas and Andalusian malagueñas. These roots have been
flavored with the influence of eight centuries of Arabic occupation and
then transformed in America by the mixing of African and indigenous elements
under the burning sun of the Orinoco Basin and the infinite largeness of
its horizons and savannas.
The roots of joropo include music from sailors
and troubadors who came in the galleons from Spain, taking root in South
American soil and developing into a powerful and vigorous tradition. Over
time joropo even became a symbol of national identity in Venezuela where
it is considered the national dance, but only attained that status in eastern
There are three regional styles of joropo defined by instrumental and stylistic
differences: eastern joropo and central joropo in Venezuela and the llanero
joropo, from the plains along the Orinoco River, which is the one found
in both countries and the very popular, due to its many recordings, extensive
radio airplay and an abundance of festivals and competitions.
Joropo music has become a genre for great solo virtuoso performances on
the leading melodic instruments: harp or bandola (four-string lute) while
the accompaniment is with the cuatro (four-string strummed small guitar)
and the maracas. The double or electric bass has been incorporated into
this group since the 40's. The llanero musician strums and plucks his instrument
in a fierce and percussive manner and prefers lyrics which are strongly
rooted in the poetic elements of his province, often in a proud nationalist
gesture. The instruments offer a surprising palette of harmonic and percussive
textures wrapped around the voices and the harp or bandola.
Couplet singers improvise rhymed verses which refer to historical or daily
events and even to people present at the party; the instrumentalists search
for new percussive sounds and textures through constant variations, improvisation
being at the heart of joropo music. The typical "canto recio”
singing has a strong declamatory style and an epic character, featured by
a long note called "tañío" at the beginning of most
The main forms are golpes (fast dances,) pasajes and tonadas (slow songs).
Its names often refer to birds such as Gabán, Gavilán, Guacharaca,
Periquera, Pajarillo, etc.
The musical forms can be vocal or purely instrumental, but the real Joropo
classic is the vocal ‘joust’, an improvised rhymed duel between
two singers called “contrapunteo”.
Born at full gallop with an incredible speed and powerful rhythmic vitality
practically shouted out at the imense savannas,llanero joropo’s brisk
and fiery character is therefore called the "untamed" joropo.
"Sabana de Sol Quemao...
...me huele a tierra mojada
me huele a llanto en el cielo
me huele a lluvia encantada..."