José Gutiérrez & Los Hermanos Ochoa

  • son jarocho
  • Veracruz, Mexico

José Gutiérrez & Los Hermanos Ochoa will not be able to appear at this year’s National Folk Festival. Instead, we are pleased to present Los Hermanos Herrera, a fabulous family band from Southern California whose members were mentored by José Gutiérrez.

José Gutiérrez & Los Hermanos Ochoa are known throughout Mexico as exceptional performers of son jarocho, a distinctive style of folk music from the state of Veracruz on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. It is the signature regional genre, noted for poetic lyrics and driving rhythms; jarocho refers to the people and culture of the state of Veracruz’s southern coastal plain.

When Felipe Ochoa moved from the family ranch to the city of Veracruz to play guitar with Los Tiburones del Golfo (The Sharks of the Gulf), he took the opportunity to learn the arpa jarocha (harp) from bandleader Nicolás Sosa. Older brother Marcos soon joined them playing rhythm guitar, the eight-string jarana. In the 1970s, the brothers established their own Trio Jarocho Chalchihuecan, still today the go-to group for performance in Verzcruz’s town square.

In the son jarocho trio, the principal singer is called a pregonero (caller), a ringing tenor who leads the call-and-response singing. The pregonero possesses a vast repertoire of sones and limitless ability to improvise lyrics to fit the occasion. José Gutiérrez is a master of this vocal art, and of the four-stringed requinto. He is also a maker of every instrument used in the son jarocho ensemble. After a decade with the internationally famous Conjunto Medellín, Gutiérrez taught and played in the United States for two decades, and in 1989 was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship. Now he lives in Veracruz again, where he performs regularly with the brothers Ochoa.

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