Ritual & Festive Music
Canyon Records Vintage Collection Vol 8
Musicians & Singers From Old Paschua Village, Tucson & Rio Yaqui, Sonora
Through centuries of persecution, the Yaquis of northwestern Mexico and southern Arizona have strived to preserve their homelands and culture. Much of Yaqui culture centers around the colorful songs and dances of their religious fiestas. Performed on both indigenous and Spanish instruments along with voice, this recording of the many unique Yaqui musical traditions provides a glimpse into the rich pageantry of the Yaqui way of life.
A través de siglos de persecución, los yaquis del noroeste de México y el sur de Arizona se han esforzado por conservar sus tierras y cultura. Gran parte de los centros de la cultura yaqui giran en torno a sus canciones y bailes llenos de color de sus fiestas religiosas. Interpretada con instrumentos indígenas y españoles, junto con la voz, esta grabación única de las muchas tradiciones musicales del Yaqui es una incursión en la rica forma de vida Yaqui.
Pascola Dance - Danza de la pascola
1. Cuera Mohelam (Old Music Strings) (2:43)
2. Cama Guiloham (Squash Vine) (2:35)
3. Mamña Cialim (Green Spinach) (2:50)
4. San Francisco (3:53)
5. Santa Teresa (3:21)
6. La Guadalupana (2:23)
Deer Dance - Danza del Venado
7. Tosay Hwilit (White Bird) and Taciovakok (a medicinal herb) (3:12)
8. Yoko Muhu (Speckled Owl) and Bali Jekan (Fresh Air) (2:16)
9. Tukahaniw (Night Earth) and Chepá Muchicawi (Josephine's Turtle Mountain) (3:18)
Folk Songs - Canciones Tradicionales
10. Juanita Baquero (Juanita The Cowboy) (4:42)
11. Katchan Ne Juni Su Tekut Jiobe (I'm Not A Squirrel) (3:41)
12. Masiaca Pueblo (Dawn Pueblo) (3:12)
Total Time: 40:06
James S. Griffith
James S. Griffith retired in March 1998 as coordinator of the University of Arizona's Southwest Folklore Center and subsequently became a research associate at the Southwest Studies Center of the University of Arizona. He has published extensively on the folklore, folklife, and folk arts of the various peoples of southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico.The Yaquis ("the people" in their own language) are of Uto-Aztecan language stock. Most of the 5,000 or more Yaquis in Arizona are descended from refugees who fled their homeland in Sonora, Mexico, around the turn of the century when the government of Porfirio Diaz attempted to free up Yaqui lands for large-scale agriculture by killing or deporting the inhabitants. Large numbers of Yaquis fled across the border into Arizona at that time; their descendants eventually came to occupy four communities in the Tucson area and one in the town of Guadalupe, near Phoenix.
HISTORYThe earliest contact between Yaquis and Europeans took place in 1533, when a Spanish slave-raiding expedition heading up the west coast of Mexico was met and repulsed by a group of armed Yaquis who were apparently defending the integrity of their land. This pattern of Spanish incursion and Yaqui defense continued into the seventeenth century, at which time the Yaquis followed yet another Spanish defeat with a request for missionaries unaccompanied by soldiers. In 1619, two Jesuits arrived in Yaqui country, along the banks of the Rio Yaqui, in what later became Sonora.
Their arrival ushered in a period of relatively stable, directed culture change, during which the Jesuits exposed the Yaquis to a new religious system as well as new crops, domesticated animals, and technologies. During this period Yaqui country was for the most part isolated from the incursions of secular Spanish miners, hacendados (farmers and ranchers), and others. As pressures on Yaqui land increased after the mid-eighteenth century, so did Yaqui resistance. Following the expulsion of all Jesuits from Spain's American colonies in 1767 (an act based on European power and politics rather than on any issues specifically related to the New World), most Yaquis spent several decades more or less
Yaqui resistance to pressures on the sacred land continued through the nineteenth century, culminating in a concerted attempt at Yaqui genocide on the part of the Mexican government under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. During this program, which took place around the turn of the century, Yaquis were rounded up and shipped off to the henequin plantations in Yucatan. Others fled northwards, crossing the border into the United States. It is for the most part the descendants of these Yaqui refugees who make up Arizona's Yaqui population.
RITUAL MUSIC AND DANCEBy far the most important body of traditional Yaqui music and song has been preserved in the context of native Christian ceremonialism. Of the ritual performers who carry on these sacred traditions, the most ubiquitous is the pascola (the Spanish pronunciation of the Yaqui term pahko o'ola, or "Old Man of the Fiesta.") Pascolas are solo dancers who open and close the religious fiesta with prayers and orations, and who act as a focal point for the fiesta activity. At least one pascola and his accompanying musicians must be present at any religious fiesta.
The pascola is bare to the waist and wears breeches of light blanketing material. His hair is pulled up into a topknot decorated with a paper flower. He wears a small wooden mask with white eyebrows and beard on the back or side of his head. Around his waist is a leather belt from which hang metal hawks-bells (koyolim), and thrust into the belt he carries a wooden, sistrum-like rattle (senasom). His feet are bare; wrapped around his ankles and lower legs are long strings of dried cocoons (teneboim) of the giant silk moth (Rothschildia Jorulla). The koyolim sound whenever the pascola moves; the teneboim accentuate his dance steps with a dry, rustling sound.
The pascola dances to two different kinds of music during the course of a typical fiesta. To the sound of the violin and harp he performs a complicated step dance, beating out the rhythm with his feet (and accentuating it with the teneboim). When each pascola has danced in turn, from youngest to oldest, another musician—the tampoleo—takes over. He is seated on the ground, leaning against a wooden backrest. He plays a cane flute with his left hand. With a small stick held in his right hand, he plays a small, two-headed drum that he holds between his thigh and his left elbow. When the tampoleo starts playing, the pascola pulls his wooden mask over his face, goes into a halfcrouch, and performs a dance that involves little footwork but highly complex play with his senasom, which he holds in his right hand and plays against his cupped left hand.
At many larger fiestas the pascolas are joined by a deer dancer (maso) and his three singer-musicians. The deer dancer performs bare to the waist, with a dark rebozo (a long scarf) or shawl hanging from his waist. Around his waist is a leather belt with many pendant deer hooves; around his lower legs are teneboim. He holds a gourd rattle in each hand. Two of his singers play long wooden rasping sticks against half-gourd resonators; the third beats a waxed half-gourd floating in a pan of water. His beating stick is wrapped with corn shucks. The deer songs are sung in an archaic and formal Yaqui, and they present images of "our little brother" the deer as he moves through an enchanted world filled with flowers and other birds and animals.
The setting for all this fiesta activity is a special ramada or bower that is divided into two parts. On the left side is an altar, to which the appropriate saint's image or images have been carried. On the right side is a space for the pascola and deer dancers and their musicians. The back and sides of the ramada are walled; spectators crowd around the front to watch the ritual dancers.
The fiesta altar is the focus for two more kinds of musical performance. A group of women—kopariam—sit in chairs or on the ground in front of the altar and sing responsorial chants in Spanish, Latin, and Yaqui. They are led by the maehto or maestro, a Yaqui lay prayer leader. (Other than the kopariam, all the musicians, dancers, and singers involved in the fiesta arts are male.)
Finally, the matachines, a group of men and boys dedicated as soldiers of the Virgin of Guadalupe, perform contradances in the plaza in front of the ramada altar. They wear crowns with ribbons on them and carry a trident and a gourd rattle in their hands. They dance to the music of guitars and violins. On certain occasions such as Easter Sunday, the matachines braid and unbraid a maypole as part of their dance.
The matachines' dance and its attendant music are distributed widely over northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Indian and Hispanic communities in northern New Mexico perform it, as do mestizos (people of mixed European and Native American ancestry) all through the border states. Yaqui matachines are considered especially sacred, however, to the extent that they may not dance on secular occasions, and, according to Yaqui belief, ground that has been danced over by matachines has been blessed until the end of time. Although pascola and deer performers are also religiously dedicated, it is possible for them to appear on secular occasions such as civic and cultural festivals.
SECULAR MUSICThere is a body of song in Yaqui called corridos, the same word that is used for Mexican narrative folksongs. Men perform these unaccompanied or to the music of a guitar, often while informally socializing; the songs deal with characters and events remembered by Yaquis. Finally, Arizona Yaquis on occasion form mariachi and norteño bands. These tend to play the standard repertoires of their genres, with the addition of a few regionally popular songs in the Yaqui language.
YAQUI MUSIC BEYOND YAQUI CULTUREYaqui music was widely recorded in both Mexico and the United States from 1940-1980. Many of these recordings have been issued commercially. A representative LP is Yaqui Ritual and Festive Music (1976), which contains pascola and deer performances, as well as a few secular corridos. Yaqui musicians and dancers have also traveled to larger venues such as the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife and the National Folk Festival. The outlook for many of the ritual forms looks promising as well; young children are learning the traditional instruments, songs, and dances in increasing numbers.
BIBLIOGRAPHYEvers, Larry, and Molina, Felipe S. (1987). Yaqui Deer Songs/Maso Bwikam: A Native American Poetry. Vol. 14 of the Sun Tracks Series. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Griffith, James S., and Molina, Felipe S. (1980). Old Men of the Fiesta: An Introduction to the Pascola Arts. Phoenix: Heard Museum.
Seyewailo, the Flower World: Yaqui Deer Songs. 1978. Larry Evers, Felipe S. Molina, and Denny Carr. Tucson: University of Arizona Radio-TV-Film Bureau. VHS videotape.
Spicer, Edward H. (1980). The Yaquis: A Cultural History. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Yaqui Ritual and Festive Music. 1976. Robert Nuss. Phoenix, Arizona: Canyon Records C-8001. Audiocassette and CD.
Copyright © 2002 by Schirmer Reference, an imprint of the Gale Group