various artists,
Yaqui Ritual & Festive Music
(Canyon, 1998)

Yaqui Ritual & Festive Music, volume 8 in the Canyon Records Vintage Collection, includes songs taken from the traditions and culture of the Yaquis from northwestern Mexico and southern Arizona. They are performed by musicians from the Old Paschua Village in Tucson, Ariz., and Rio Yaqui in Sonora, Mexico.

There are two distinct types of traditional Yaqui music, in addition to the folk songs. The first type is the strictly tribal form featuring only indigenous instruments, primarily gourd rattles, rasps and cane whistles. The second type is the Spanish-influenced style with guitars, violins and harps. Both are featured in this collection.

I loved all the "Matachini Dances," especially "San Francisco." The guitar takes a prominent point with a fast violin supporting it. It is difficult to say whether the guitar or violin has the lead in this one, although technically, the violin carries the melody. I have to dance to these tunes. "The Deer Dances" are particularly intriguing! They are thickly layered with the heaviest percussion of all the selections in this collection. They make your feet start moving with the beat. I also love "Juanita Baquero."

The musicians and singers in these tunes and songs are Fernando Contreras, Luis Jiocamea Cupisi, Fernando Contreras, Juan Leon Valencia, Ignacio Pluma Blanca Aite, Marcos Zaviva Cochemea and Conrrado Madrid Molina.

The songs on this CD are grouped according to their type. There are three Pascola Dances: "Cuera Mohelam (Old Music Strings)," "Cama Guiloham (Squash Vine)" and "Mamna Cialim (Green Spinach)." There are three Matachini Dances: "San Francisco," "Santa Teresa" and "La Guadalupana." There are six Deer Dances: "Tosay Hwikit (White Bird)," "Taciovakok (A Medicinal Herb)," "Yoko Muhu (Speckled Owl)," "Bali Jekan (Fresh Air)," "Tukahaniw (Night Earth)" and "Chepa Muchicawi (Josephine's Turtle Mountain)." There are three folk songs: "Juanita Baquero (Juanita the Cowboy)," "Katchan Ne Juni Su Tekut Jiobe (I'm Not a Squirrel)" and "Masiaca Pueblo (Dawn Pueblo)."

The inside of the cover tells about the history and culture of the Yaquis and their music and festivals. There are sections that provide information on the songs and give the words in the traditional Yaqui form and also in English translation.

This is a really cool introduction to the music of the Yaquis. The different styles will appeal to a broad audience and will thrill listeners with the diversity of these natives. This is a wonderful additional to your music collection and a vital step in your journey to cultural enlightenment. It will likely have you on your feet, moving with the beat and clapping your hands. The entire collection is thrilling!

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 8 November 2003