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Lesson 1: Learning “La Guacamaya”

Aim: What are some of the distinctive rhythms in son jarocho music?
Summary: Students will sing the song “La Guacamaya,” learn two son jarocho rhythms, and dance the zapateado.
Materials: Musical Explorers digital resources; Musical Explorers Student Guide; crayons, markers, or colored pencils
Standards: National 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10
Vocabulary: tarima, zapateado

“La Guacamaya” is one of the most recognizable son jarocho songs and is almost always performed with zapateado. The zapateado is a Mexican dance style in which the dancers’ feet punctuate the rhythm, similar to tap dance. The name of the dance comes from zapato, the Spanish word for “shoe”; zapatear means to strike with a shoe. “La Gucamaya” is a son de montón, which means that it is traditionally danced by many women at the same time. The women perform on a tarima, a raised wooden platform that functions as an additional percussion instrument in the ensemble.

The Villalobos Brothers Teach “La Guacamaya”

“La Guacamaya” Demonstration

Son jarocho artists the Villalobos Brothers teach “La Guacamaya.”

Sing “La Guacamaya”

  • Listen to “La Guacamaya,” Track 24.
  • Learn the lyrics to the chorus, using Track 25.
  • Sing the chorus using “La Guacamaya” chorus, Track 26. During the chorus, students can move their arms to mimic the macaw flying.

“La Guacamaya”

Text

Estaba la Guacamaya Parada
en un platanal
Parada en un platanal
Estaba la Guacamaya
Sacudiéndose las alas
Para empezar a volar
Estaba la Guacamaya
Parada en un platanal

Chorus:
Vuela, vuela, vuela (¡Vuela!)
Vuela te lo pido
Ven y pinta de colores
mi cielo descolorido
(x2)

Pobrecita guacamaya
¡Ay! Qué lástima me da
¡Ay! Qué lástima me da
Pobrecita guacamaya
Se acabaron las pitayas
¿Y’ora sí que comerá?
Pobrecita guacamaya
¡Ay! Qué lástima me da

(Chorus)
(x2)

La guacamaya se va
Se acabó su temporada
Se acabó su temporada
La guacamaya se va
Pero pronto volverá
Con sus pluma coloradas
Con sus pluma coloradas
Que le van saliendo ya

(Chorus)
(x2)

 

Translation

There was a macaw
Standing on a banana tree
Standing on a banana tree
There was a macaw
It was shaking its wings
To start flying
There was a macaw
Standing on a banana tree

Chorus:
Fly, fly, fly (Fly!)
Fly I beg you
Come and paint some colors
on my grey sky
(x2)

Poor macaw
I feel bad for you
I feel bad for you
Poor macaw
There are no more pitayas*
What are you going to eat now?
Poor macaw
I feel bad for you

(Chorus)
(x2)

The macaw leaves now
Its season is over
Its season is over
The macaw leaves now
But it will come back soon
With its red feathers
With its red feathers
But it will come back soon

Chorus
(x2)

*Dragon fruit

Explore the Rhythms in “La Guacamaya”

  • Son jarocho songs are most commonly in either 6/8 or 3/4 meters. Sometimes, these songs can be performed with 6/8 and 3/4 rhythms layered on top of each other. There are some easy phrases that can be used to learn to put these rhythms together.
  • Start by having your students put the six counts of the 6/8 rhythm in their feet, emphasizing beats 1 and 4. Ask your students if they notice which beats are stronger and which beats are weaker.
    • Feel the way your body wants to move with the music. This is the steady beat of the song.
  • Next, speak the first rhythm for “La Guacamaya,” using Café con pan rhythm, Track 27, while your students continue to keep just the steady beat (beat 1 and beat 4) in their feet. As they get comfortable with this, invite them to speak the rhythm, all while maintaining the steady beat.
  • Now, speak the second rhythm for “La Guacamaya,” using the Chocolaté rhythm, Track 28, while your students continue to keep the steady beat in their feet. As they get comfortable with this, invite them to speak the rhythm, all while maintaining the steady beat.
  • After that, listen to Café con pan y chocolaté rhythmic layers, Track 29, to hear both rhythms together. Then, split the class into two parts. One will perform the café con pan rhythm, and the other will perform the chocolaté rhythm.
  • Start the 6/8 steady beat again, then bring in each section to speak their rhythm. As your students get more comfortable, speed up the tempo. Then, try performing both rhythms with “La Guacamaya”, Track 24.
  • If your students are beginning to become familiar with notation, you can experiment with some basic audiation exercises by having them only perform the eighth notes or only the 16th notes while maintaining the son jarocho rhythms.

Dance Zapateado in “La Guacamaya”

  • Both the café con pan and chocolaté rhythms have zapateado dances.
  • While saying the phrase, “café con pan,” add the zapeteado step using the Café con pan rhythm, Track 27:
    • Step with your right foot on the word “pan.”
    • Step “left-left-right” on the other beats of the rhythm, “café con.”
    • Step with your left foot on the word “pan.”
    • Step “right-right-left” on the other beats of the rhythm, “café con.”
  • Continue to alternate.
  • While saying the phrase, “chocolaté,” add the zapeteado steps using the Chocolaté rhythm, Track 28. Step “right-right” on the syllables, “cho-co.”
    • Step left on the syllable “la.”
    • Step on your right foot on the last syllable “té.”
    • Step “left-left” on the syllables, “cho-co.”
    • Step right on the syllable “la.”
    • Step on your left foot on the last syllable “té.”
  • Continue to alternate.
  • Use the Café con pan y chocolaté rhythmic layers, Track 29, and split your class into two. Have one group try the “café con pan” zapateado, and the other try the “chocolaté” zapateado. Give them an opportunity to switch.
  • Now, put it altogether with “La Guacamaya,” Track 24. You can split your class into different groups, performing the melody while keeping the steady beat, speaking the “café con pan” or “chocolaté” rhythms, or dancing the zapateado for either phrase.
Creative Extension

Discover the Macaw and the Lyrics for “La Guacamaya”

  • The title for the song “La Guacamaya” translates to “The Macaw,” which is the largest parrot in the world. Macaws are known for their brilliant plumes of feathers, usually a vibrant red, blue, and gold. The species is endangered; there are only about 250 macaws that live in the rainforests of Veracruz. Officials are slowly trying to reintroduce the macaw to their natural habitats so that residents and tourists can regularly see them flying again.
  • Find photos of macaws to share with your students. Then, discuss the various birds and the lyrics of “La Guacamaya” with your students.
    • What do you like about the colors of the macaws? How do they make you feel?
    • Why does the singer want the macaw to come and paint the grey sky for them?
    • What colors would you want the macaw to color your sky?
  • Using La Guacamaya in Flight (PDF), have your students color in the macaw and the sky in the colors they imagined.
GRADES 3–5 EXTENSION

Painting with Sound

Music educator Margaret Jenks teaches how melodies can paint a picture in this lesson for students in grades 3–5.

Musical Word Wall

Add the word tarima and zapateado to the Musical Word Wall.

Don't Forget

Image Credits

Dia de los muertos photo by Stacy Arturogi.

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