The guaracha has traditionally been one of the most popular and widely accepted forms of dance music in Puerto Rico, due to the fun and racy character of the lyrics and the dance itself. It combines characteristics of Spanish dances with aspects of the dances of African origin that proliferated mainly along the coastal areas of Puerto Rico.
The origins of the guaracha arose in Spain, where it was a tap dance performed by a solo dancer in comedytheaters. During the 19th century, many performing troupes arrived in Puerto Rico from Cuba. They brought with them the Cuban guaracha, which consisted of clever songs performed between theater acts to entertain the audience. Later, the guaracha took on a style of its own in Puerto Rico and became part of other Puerto Rican customs, such as the sung rosaries, the baquiné, Christmas music and children’s songs.
The melody of the guaracha follows the characteristics of popular music. The lines are short and the notes are brief. The musical units are four or eight measures and the harmony is limited principally to basic chords, such as tonal, dominant and subdominant, but not like the “seis,” which repeats the same pattern constantly.
The lyrics of the guaracha do not pertain to a single poetic form, as there is a diversity of meter. In general, it is sung by a soloist or duo accompanied by a chorus in a dialogue. As for the instrumentation, the guiro plays the rhythm and the guitar and cuatro provide the accompaniment. Today, other instruments are also used, such as the palito, maracas, cowbell and trumpet.
The guaracha is an essentially danceable rhythm but is also considered traditional Christmas caroling music, as well as popular concert music. Several of today’s popular styles of music have inherited characteristics of the guaracha, including, for example, salsa and the rumba.
In the 19th century, both Juan Ríos Ovalle and Juan Morel Campos incorporated the guaracha into their danzas, danzones and zarzuelas. During the 20th century, the form was cultivated by Rafael Hernández, Bobby Capó, Pedro Flores, Tite Curet Alonso, Rafael Cortijo, Ismael Rivera, El Gran Combo, Francisco Alvarado and Luigi Texidor, among others.
Some popular guarachas are Hermoso bouquet, Pueblo latino, Borracho no vale, Compay póngase duro, Mujer Trigueña, Marinerito y Piel canela.
Adapted by PROE Editorial Group
Original source: Francisco Marrero Ocasio, Los instrumentos de cuerda en Puerto Rico, 2003. CD Vuelvo a mi Estrella. Taller Musical Retablo.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: August 28, 2014.
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