Since the days before written history and since long before the 16th Century Spanish conquest of what is now Mexico, the Purhépecha indigenous people of Michoacán have had a profound impact on all things cultural in the region. Traditional Purhépecha textiles, clay work, metalwork, wood carving, dance, and music continue to be part of Michoacán's daily 21st Century life.
The Orquesta Janintserakua, founded in 2003 by Juan Carlos Guerrero Jerónimo, is active in promoting the traditional pirékuas, sones abajeños and sones Purhépecha abajeños native to the Purhépecha of Michoacán. The orchestra takes pride in its strong musical presence both in the city of Morelia and in outlying towns across the state.
Music among the Purhépecha is an integral part of community life, both secular and religious. Pirékuas are most often highly romantic love songs, written and sung to woo a girl or to celebrate a couple's love. Sones, whether sones Purhépechas or sones Purhépecha abajeños, are generally lively dance tunes. Sones Purhépechas come from or are written about Michoacán's Zona Lacustre (lake zone) near beautiful Lago de Pátzcuaro (Lake Pátzcuaro), or from the Meseta Purhépecha (the Purhépecha tablelands), in the foothills of nearby mountains. Sones Purhépecha abajeños originate in Michoacán's lowlands--the Tierra Caliente (Hot Lands).
Oswaldo Rivas Sánchez, cellist, Danilo Gallardo Riveros on bass, Cristián Yaird Ponce Villanova and Victor Alfonso Zaragoza Rosales, both playing second violin. Hidden in the photo are other members of the Orquesta Janintserakua María Cristina Soria Pérez (saxophone), Juan Carlos Zamudio Anastasio (trumpet), and Carlos Campos Ramírez (trombone).
This iconic mask of the Purhépecha Danza de los Viejitos (Dance of the Little Old Men) is for sale in the Pátzcuaro market.
Some composers, especially Maestro Nicolás Bartolo Juárez, have also written sones purhépechas as anthems to the glories of nature. For example, Maestro Bartolo composed a son purhépecha for each one of the six islands of Lago de Pátzcuaro (Lake Pátzcuaro): Janitzio, La Pacanda, Jarácuaro, Yunuén, Tecuena, and Urandén.
Among the most noted composers in the region are José María Ponce Martínez, Salvador Próspero Román, Francisco Salmerón Equihua, Eusebio González Tomás, Primitivo Alcántar Alejandre, José Alfredo Barrera Próspero, and Francisco Mercado Zacarías. All were or are prolific in various genres: vals, pirkékua, polkas, and sones.
Juan Carlos Guerrero Jerónimo, the young director of Orquesta Janintserakua, spent his childhood and adolescence in his parents' Michoacán home town, Cherán. Beginning at age 11, he studied voice and violin with Maestro Francisco Mercado Zacarías in the Brigada de Desarrollo Indigena No. 15. At 15, he entered Morelia's Escuela Popular de Bellas Artes de la Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, completing a Licenciatura en Música (similar to a bachelor's degree) with a specialty in composition.
In addition to composition, he has also studied directing techniques, clarinet, and saxophone. Only 37 years old, he has formed and played in several important musical groups. In 2003, he founded the Orquesta Janintserakua for the express purpose of preserving the musical works of Purhépecha composers.
The Orquesta Janintserakua is an important force in preserving the cultural heritage of more than a century of regional composers. Traditional regional music could easily be muscled out in present-day Michoacán by modern ranchera, banda, and grupero music.
In 2008, the Centro de Investigación de la Cultura Purhépecha de la Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo produced and published Volumes 9 and 10 of the Antología de la Música Purhépecha (Anthology of Purhépecha Music), featuring Orquesta Janintserakua and Orquesta Tiamu Uricha. On the double-volume CD, both orchestras play the sones Purhépechas and the sones abajeños composed by Maestro Salvador Ramírez Várgas from the village of San Felipe de los Herreros, Michoacán. In the near future, Volumes 14 and 15 of the Antología de la Música Purhépecha will again feature music by Maestro Ramírez.
Maestro Ramírez was born in 1920 in Uruapan, where his family lived due to exigencies created by the Mexican Revolution of 1910. The family returned to San Felipe in 1930. Just a few years later, young Salvador joined his brother and other musicians in forming Orquesta Los Ramírez, which soon became sought after as one of the best of the region. Today, the Orquesta Los Ramírez is known as Orquesta Tiamu Uricha.
During his more than 70-year career as a composter and musician, Maestro Ramírez composed literally hundreds of sones and sones abajeños Purhépecha. Mexico Cooks! was privileged to be present at the concert in Morelia's Teatro Ocampo, where Maestro Ramírez received copies of Volume 9 and 10 of the recording of his music, produced by the university. Soon after that concert in his honor, Maestro Ramírez passed away and was buried in San Felipe los Herreros.
Orquesta Janintserakua's members are primarily young musicians from Morelia's Escuela de Bellas Artes, although several members are also members of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Michoacán, which has its seat in Morelia. The orchestra takes Michoacán's regional Purhépecha music wherever it's requested: to regional town fiestas, to the state capital, and to outlying districts. Its main goal is to spread the knowledge and enjoyment of this highly idiosyncratic musical form.
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