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Lesson 2: Learning “El Colás”

Aim: How can rhythm be used to create different musical phrases?
Summary: Students will learn to sing “El Colás,” create their own rhythmic patterns, learn about the son jarocho instruments, and discover the traditional fandango.
Materials: Musical Explorers digital resources, Musical Explorers Student Guide
Standards: National 1, 2, 3, 5, 10
Vocabulary: fandango, jarana, leona, pandero, quijada, requinto, tarima

Fandangos are traditional celebrations from rural communities of southern Veracruz. They celebrate harvest cycles, religious holidays, and personal milestones, like birthdays and weddings. They are very inclusive celebrations, and often the whole town participates. Families take turns preparing food and drink and adorning the tarimas. Fandangos can run for days and people from other towns come to take part and visit friends and family.

The Villalobos Brothers Teach “El Colás”

“El Colás” Demonstration

Son jarocho artists the Villalobos Brothers teach “El Colás.”

Sing “El Colás”

  • Listen to “El Colás,” Track 30.
  • Learn the lyrics to the chorus using “El Colás” pronunciation, Track 31.
  • Sing the chorus using “El Colás” chorus, Track 32.

“El Colás”

Text

Qué buen caballo tiene mi amigo Nicolás
Camina pa’ delante camina para atrás

Chorus:
Colás, Colás, Colás, y Nicolás
Con esos ojos negros me miras y te vas
(x2)

Cuando tenía dinero me decían “Don Nicolás”
ahora que nada tengo me dicen “Colás” nomás.
(x2)

(Chorus)
(x2)

Con ésta me despido que ya no puedo más,
Así acaban cantando los versos del
Colás.
(x2)

(Chorus)
(x3)

 

Translation

What a great horse my friend Nicolas has
It walks forward, it walks backwards

Chorus:
Colás, Colás, Colás, and Nicolas
With those black eyes, you look at me and leave
(x2)

When I had money, they called me “Don” Nicolas
Now that I don’t have any, they only call me
“Colás”
(x2)

(Chorus)
(x2)

With this verse, I say farewell because I can’t
anymore, And so they end singing the verses of Colás
(x2)

(Chorus)
(x3)

*Colás is a nickname for Nicolas.

Discover Rhythmic Patterns in “El Colás”

  • While most son jarocho tunes are in 6/8 or 3/4, “El Colás” is in 2/4.
  • The underlying rhythm of the song is based on the rhythm of the melody.
  • First, listen to the rhythm using the “El Colás” rhythm, Track 33. Notice that the rhythm follows the first line of the chorus. Begin by repeating that phrase with your students, clapping the steady beat.
  • Next, try to add the zapateado steps while saying the rhythm. It helps if you do this on your toes and pick up the opposite foot that is performing in preparation for the next step.
  • “El Colás” is traditionally danced by couples, or with one male dancer and two or more female dancers. However, the movement is very free, as couples might end up side-by-side, facing one another, or spinning around one another. The important part is to keep the rhythm going, no matter the position the dancers.
  • Have your students pair off and dance the zapateado, using “El Colás,” Track 30.

Create New Rhythmic Patterns in “El Colás”

  • Similar to Lesson 1 in which the phrases “café con pan” and “chocolaté” were used for the son jarocho rhythms, students can use their favorite foods to come up with a phrase for the “El Colás” rhythm.
  • Using My Own Rhythmic Pattern (PDF), have your students brainstorm a list of foods with two syllables. Then, have them select a joining word, and then create a list of foods with three sounds. Put the two foods together in a chant.
  • In the following example, we used “mole y tamales.” Guide students in creating their own body percussion sounds for the “El Colás” rhythm, such as clapping their hands, patting on their laps, or tapping their shoulders. They can pick as many or as few movement options as they would like.
  • Ask your students to put their food chants and body sounds together and practice.
  • Form a circle around your stage area or “tarima.” Use “El Colás,” Track 30, and have each student come into the circle and perform their new rhythmic pattern.
Create New Rhythmic Patterns

Teaching artist Shanna Whitney teaches how words can be used to create new rhythmic patterns.

Creative Extension

Explore Instruments in Son Jarocho

  • Son jarocho uses many different string and percussion instruments. The Villalobos Brothers primarily play violin, but they also play many of these instruments as well. Use Explore Instruments in Son Jarocho (PDF) along with Tracks 34–39 to introduce your students to some of the instruments that characterize son jarocho.
  • The jarana is an instrument shaped like a guitar that has two single strings, and three sets of double strings. It provides rhythmic and chordal elements.
  • The requinto is a four- or five-stringed, guitar-shaped instrument that is played with a special pick made from a bull’s horn called an “espiga.” It often plays the melody of the tune, as well as the tangueis, or accompaniment.
  • The leona is a four-stringed, guitar-shaped instrument that is larger and therefore has a lower pitch, providing a bass guitar sound.
  • The quijada is a percussion instrument traditionally made from a donkey jawbone that is treated so that the teeth rattle when you strike or scrape it.
  • The pandero is a small hand drum that often has small metal jingles around the frame.
  • The tarima is a raised wooden platform used as a dance floor. The holes in the side allow the percussive sound of the dancer’s feet to accent the rhythm of the song.
Creative Extension

Class Fandango

  • Son jarocho is a participatory genre: Everyone has a role to play. A fandango is the manifestation of that sentiment and is synonymous with son jarocho. It is a community gathering that can last from hours to days at a time. While people play music and dance, the fandango is more like a group jam session than a performance.
  • Discuss the fandango concept with your students. You can find source material in the Resources for Teachers section at the beginning of the unit and on the Villalobos Brothers’ resource page.
  • Brainstorm what a fandango would be like.
    • What happens at a fandango? What do you think people are doing?
    • Will you be a singer, a dancer, or a musician—or all three?
    • Where is the fandango taking place? Who is invited?
    • What food will be served?
    • What music should be played?
  • Act out a scene from a fandango, allowing students to choose different roles and using “La Guacamaya,” Track 24, or “El Colás,” Track 30.
  • If you would like to take this activity further, you can plan a real fandango. You can include families or even involve the whole school. Make sure that everyone in the class has a part to play so that they can actively participate in this staple tradition of son jarocho.
GRADES 3–5 EXTENSION

Talking Rhythm

Music educator Margaret Jenks teaches how the natural patterns in language can become the basis for rhythms in music in this lesson for students in grades 3–5.

Literacy Extension

The Lizard and the Sun

In The Lizard and the Sun by Alma Flor Ada, the sun disappears and is nowhere to be found. It’s up to a brave little lizard to search and bring back warmth and light to everyone.

"The Lizard and the Sun (La Lagartija y el Sol)" book cover depicting a lizard looking across the water at a Mexican pyramid as a smiling sun beams down.

Musical Word Wall

Review the word tarima, and add the words fandango, jarana, leona, pandero, quijada, and requinto to the Musical Word Wall.

Don't Forget

Image Credits

Mexican Independence Day musicians photo courtesy of Brooklyn Eagle / Corazon Aguirre.

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