The Joropo is a musical style resembling the fandango, and an accompanying dance. It has African, Native South American and European influences and originated in parts of what is now Venezuela and Colombia. It is a fundamental genre of música criolla (creole music). It is also the most popular "folk rhythm": the well-known song "Alma Llanera" is a joropo, considered the unofficial national anthem of Venezuela.
In 1882 it became Venezuela's national dance. Formerly, the Spanish word joropo meant "a party", but now it has come to mean a type of music and dance that identifies Venezuelans. In the 18th century the llaneros started using the word “joropo” instead of the word "fandango", which was the word used at the time for party and dance.
The Joropo is played with the arpa llanera (harp), bandola, cuatro, and maracas (ibid), making use of polyrhythmic patterns, especially of hemiola, and alternation of 3/4 and 6/8 tempos. It was originally played, most often also sung, by the llaneros, the Venezuelan Llanos, (plains), and thus also called música llanera (ibid).
The singer and the harp or bandola may perform the main melody while a cuatro performs the accompaniment, adding its characteristic rhythmic, sharp percussive effect. The cuatro and the bandola are four-stringed instruments which are descendants of the Spanish guitar. The only real percussion instruments used are the maracas. Besides the genre and dance, the name joropo also means the performance, the event or occasion of performance.
The joropo adopted and still uses the hand turn, the movement of the feet, and waltz turns. First, the partners dance a type of waltz holding each other tightly. Then they stand facing each other and make small steps forward and backward as if sweeping the floor. Lastly they hold each other's arms, and the woman does sweeping steps while the man stomps his feet along with the music’s rhythm.
Evolution and more refined forms
In modern times, several other instruments have been added to playing various parts in Joropo performances, for instance, guitar, flute, clarinet, piano, and up to a complete symphony orchestra playing Joropo arrangements.
- Dydynski, Krzysztof (2004). Lonely Planet Venezuela. ISBN 1-74104-197-X.
- Shepherd, John and Horn, David. Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 9: Genres: Caribbean and Latin, pp. 400-402 (Bloomsbury Publishing 2014).
- José Portaccio Fontalvo. y su música: Canciones y fiestas llaneras.