Ask most any person outside of Mexico what that country's best known musical style is and the answer inevitably will be mariachi.
Understandably since mariachi is Mexico's most popular musical export. But there's another musical genre from Mexico. It's the son jarocho from the east coast Mexican state of Veracruz.
Although most people are unfamiliar with son jarocho they certainly are familiar with the genre's most representative song: "La Bamba."
That's right, 1950s pioneering rocker Ritchie Valens turned a son jarocho song into a timeless American popular hit.
While the music of Veracruz does not have the popular following like its musical cousins, the son jarocho is Mexico's oldest and most diverse sound, said Diana Hinojosa, a University of Arizona graduate and Chicago resident.
Hinojosa is a musician and a member of Pablo's Fandango Jarocho Ensemble, a Chicago-based group that will perform Wednesday night at Old Town Artisans. "Viva Veracruz - A Night of Jarocho Music and Dance" will feature local Mexican folkloric dancers and mariachi music. It's a fundraiser for CHISPA, Celebrating Hispanic Performing Arts.
Jarocho music is the blend of Spanish, African and indigenous musical influences, said Hinojosa, 32, a former teacher. The Spanish introduced the string instruments. The African slaves contributed the percussion and syncopation and the indigenous musicians added their lyricism to the son jarocho.
In jarocho, the typical main instruments are the harp, and requinto, a four-string guitar, and jarana, an eight-string guitar. Other instruments include the violin, liona, a bass guitar, the quijada, the jawbone of a mule or horse, the cajon, the percussive box and pandero, a tambourine.
The music is deeply embedded in Mexico's regional folk traditions but jarocho also holds the distinction that it grew out of a form of protest music. Slaves created lyrics to convey double meaning to communicate with each other without being detected.
The rebellious tradition continues in the son jarocho. Mexican and Latino musicians have adopted jarocho music as an expression of ethnic identity.
In keeping with that spirit of rebellion, two members of the group decided not to travel to Tucson in protest of the state's new immigration law.
Hinojosa respects their position but she and two other band members opted to come to Tucson. Band members Yahvi Pichardo and Adrian Alcantar, and jarocho musician Victor Padilla of New Mexico will join Hinojosa for the Tucson show.
"The rest of us felt that most of the people who were in support of the SB1070 law reside in the northern part of the state, and we felt that it was unfair to punish the people living in the south where the concert was taking place," Hinojosa said.
Son jarocho, however, often is apolitical. The lyrics, handed down over the generations and often changed, sing of the land, flora and fauna, and food. Jarocho musicians are famous for inventing new verses during a performance.
Jarocho's evolution continues as Hinojosa and other musicians resuscitate the sound and pass it on to younger musicians.
if you go
• What: "Viva Veracruz," a night of jarocho music and dance, presented by CHIPSA Foundation and Rhythm & Roots. Featuring Ballet Folklorico San Juan, Mariachi Viva La Mujer & Olga Flores and Pablo's Fandango Jarocho Ensemble & Ballet Folklorico Arizona
• When: 5:30 Wednesday.
• Where: Old Town Artisans, 201 N. Court Ave.
• Tickets: $15 advance, $18 at the door.
• More info: 319-9966