Arpa jarocha

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Arpa jarocha
String instrument
Classification chordophone
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 121.22
Volume Loud
Attack Fast
Decay Medium
Related instruments

The arpa jarocha is a harp from Veracruz, Mexico. It is one of the main instruments in a conjunto jarocho, a type of Mexican folk ensemble[1] and is most associated with performing sones jarochos, a musical style that blends Spanish and African-influenced rhythms.[2] The arpa is typically heard providing the main melodies, while instruments such as the jarana guitar and the requinto provide basic rhythms or counter-melodies.


The Spaniards brought the baroque harp to the New World, and in most places where they landed throughout Mexico, Central and South America, various forms of folk harp took root with the indigenous people. The arpa jarocha is one of the various forms of harp that evolved from models introduced by the Spanish in 1521. Originally, Spanish harps in the New World were played only in religious context, such as during masses and other religious observances. The indigenous people of Veracruz had never before seen stringed instruments before the Conquest, and they adapted the Spanish harp and created what became known as the arpa jarocha, a small harp that was played while seated, just as the Spanish harps were. It was not until the 20th century that the arpa jarocho grew in dimension to encompass 36 strings and to be played while standing. The harps that had developed in Western Mexico, namely in Jalisco and Michoacán, influenced a harpist and luthier in Veracruz named Andres Alfonso Vergara to build a large harp, and it gained popularity among the harpists of the day, being as broadcasting was in its rise. The popular harpist Andrés Huesca had already begun using a Jalisco harp, and Don Andrés made him an arpa jarocha in the new large size. He continued to play the large Veracruz harp after that. Now the arpa jarocha can be found in Mexico City, Tijuana, Southern California, and many other locations. Some references have stated incorrectly that the arpa jarocha was used in Jalisco, Michoacán, and among the Chamula Indians; this is incorrect. Each of those regions developed their own adaptation of the baroque Spanish harp. Also, there were regional harps in Zacatecas and in the North with the Yaqui Indians of the northern desert and southwest US. [3]

Construction and Design[edit]

It is a wooden harp with 32-36 strings tuned diatonically over five octaves. The performer plays a bass line on the low strings with one hand and supplies arpeggiated melodies on the higher strings with the other hand.[2] The top of the soundbox on this instrument arches outward, due to the tension of the strings.[2] Unlike other Mexican harps, the arpa jarocha has its sound holes located on the back of the sound box instead of on the front. In Michoacàn, the harps have a large sound box and while one player plucks the strings, another player will use the sound board like a drum. The Chamula Indians' harp was much smaller with a wide section of mid-range strings missing; most harps have bass strings and high strings, so this particular harp would have many of the middle stings absent.[3]

See also[edit]

[4] == References ==

  1. ^ Atlas Cultural de México. Música. México: Grupo Editorial Planeta. 1988. ISBN 968-406-121-8.
  2. ^ a b c Courteau, Mona-Lyn and Daniel Sheehy (2003). "Part III Musical Instruments: 13. Stringed Instruments: Harp.". In John Shepherd, et al. Continuum Encyclopedia Of Popular Music Of The World. Vol. 2. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 427–437. ISBN 9780826463227. 
  3. ^ a b Ortiz, Alfredo Orlando (1991). "History of Latin American Harps". Harp Spectrum. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Robles, John. "El Son Jarocho An Exploration of the Folk Music Tradition of Veracruz, Mexico". Lecture.