Hispanic Heritage Month graphic

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. During this time we celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

Did you know that you can create robust, relevent, and culturally responsive lessons using eNovativePiano materials? We have ensembles, lead sheets, repertoire, and more. By the way, these resources are great any time of the year!

La Bamba – Traditional Tune from Veracruz, Mexico

I’ll illustrate with the classic rock & roll song, La Bamba.

La Bamba was most famously popularized in 1958 by Mexican American singer Ritchie Valens (Richard Valenzuela). In 1961, the tune provided the basis for the song Twist and Shout, which remains a popular cover tune.

Less well known is that La Bamba is a traditional melody from Veracruz, Mexico believed to be over 200 years old. It is a “son jarocho” that accompanies a dance with the same name. The song and dance are traditionally performed by couples at weddings to intricate dance steps and with music performed on traditional instruments.

veracruz folkloric dancers

The traditional “son jarocho” is a mixture of indigenous, African, and Spanish musical elements. Comparing a traditional performance with one of the contemporary rock & roll versions illustrates some of the ways a traditional tune can evolve. You might notice differences of rhythm, tempo, meter, instrumentation, style, and overall sound quality.

Listen to this performance by traditional musicians.

 

Now, listen to the cover version by Los Lobos from the 1987 Valens biopic, La Bamba.

 

eNovativePiano’s La Bamba lesson is a collaboration between a pianist and a singer(s) or instrumentalist(s). Because it is in our unit, Black Key Pentascales, our version is in the key of Db major. However, it is a simple vamp using only I, IV, and V triads and could be easily transposed by students.

music score for la bamba

6 Things to Do With Your Piano Class

  1. Play La Bamba in the key of Db major and/or in two additional keys. Transposition is very easy as only the I, IV, and V triads are used. Of course the rhythm pattern is the tricky part!
  2. Accompany a sing-along. If there are Spanish speakers in your class, they can coach others in the correct pronounciation. If there aren’t you might try using a pronunciation app such as SpanishDict.
  3. Perform with our play-along track. This track is in the Valens rock & roll style and is lots of fun.
  4. Learn more about Ritchie Valens, a rock & roll pioneer and a forefather of the Chicano rock movement. Explore more songs by Chicano/a rock artists.
  5. Dig deeper into the culture of this song. Learn about Veracruz, the “son jarocho,” and traditional instruments. I’ve added some excellent references towards the end of this post.
  6. Listen to and compare some of the different versions found on our Spotify Playlist. Choose your favorite, determine the key and play along using transposed chords in that key.

Additional Resources you may be interested in:

More Hispanic Heritage Lessons from eNovativePiano

In addition to La Bamba, eNovativePiano has other great lessons to support Hispanic Heritage awareness. You must be logged into eNovativePiano to view our lessons. If you are not already an eNovativePiano subscriber, you can subscribe here or request an instructor free trial.

Multi-Piano Ensembles

Collaborative Ensembles:

Lead Sheets

Harmonization

Repertoire

Susanna Garcia is one of the creators of eNovativePiano and has published 35+ original compositions and arrangements. Floating is a student favorite for its lush harmonies and fun technique of a ‘floating’ right hand.

 

You can watch performances of some of her other compositions here.

If you try out any of these ideas or materials with your students, let us know how it went. If you have ideas to share, we’d love to hear them.

eNovativePiano provides materials appropriate for students from the beginning to the late intermediate levels. If you are not already an eNovativePiano subscriber, you can subscribe here or request an instructor free trial.