When you enter the room, it’s filled with people of all ages strumming away on guitars. In the middle of the group is a raised wooden box, used as a sort of stage, filled with dancers. They’re drumming with their feet while they dance. The energy of the room is intoxicating. And you’re immediately drawn in.
Fandango is a musical event that has no audience, only participants. Young and old who have never played this music (called son jarocho) are being taught by the more experienced musicians and dancers.
You pick up a guitar (a jarana — pronounced “ha-rah-nah”) and stand in the back. A man in front of you turns around, and shows you a note to play. With his nod of encouragement, you give it a try. And this simple note, played over and over on the beat become part of the rise and swell of the music.
In Veracruz, Mexico, where this art form originated, people would come from all over the countryside for a Fandango. To celebrate a birthday, an engagement, or just because.
KEXP Documentaries asked Fandango musician Ramon Gutierrez Hernandez from the band Son de Madera why he plays this traditional music. He said,
“This music is the umbilical cord that ties generations of my family together. My grandmother is a hundred years old and she’s about to die. That’s just the reality of things. And this is my connection to her. This is her voice continuing forward through me. And my children will then take this, and will love this music the way that I love them.”
This year, the University of Washington School of Music celebrates this community art form by having one of Fandango’s most famous bands, Son de Madera, in residence here in Seattle for workshops and classes. Despite its humble beginnings in the countryside, Fandango is an advanced way for a community to come together. And you can join in right here the Emerald city all through the next year. For more information, please visit the Seattle Fandango Project.
KEXP Documentaries are produced by Michele Myers. You can hear all our archived KEXP Documentaries, including: American Sabor, The Heart of Soul, Stories of Bob Dylan and Music Revolutionaries in the on-demand section of kexp.org.