LIVE: Mexican son meets the music of Appalachia

Luray > may 11 3:30-5:00pm

Warehouse Arts Center, 15 Campbell Street, Luray VA 22935 

Join us on Saturday, May 12 from 3:30—5:00pm at the Warehouse Arts Gallery in Luray, VA for a presentation of New Mexilachian Sones with Lua Project, a Charlottesville based folk roots ensemble featuring Luray native Estela Knott, performing with Son Jarocho master Zenen Zeferino.

This concert will be a multi-media presentation, highlighting their Virginia Humanities grant supported project, Son Jarocho: New Sones From an Emerging Virginia Culture. In this project, Zenen and Estela conducted video interviews with Latino immigrants in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia, and inspired by their stories, created new arrangements of traditional Son Jarocho classics, combining the propulsive rhythms and soaring vocals of Son Jarocho with the traditional melodies and harmonies of Appalachian songs and ballads.

The presentation will feature a selection of these innovative collaborations, along with video clips of interviews, and a description of their shared poetic structures.  


charlottesville > may 12 3:30-5:00pm

McGuffey Arts Center, 201 2nd Street NW, Studio 11, CVille VA 22901

Join us on Saturday, May 13 from 3:30—5:00pm at the McGuffey Arts Center in Charlottesville, VA for another presentation of New Mexilachian Sones with Lua Project.

What is Son Jarocho?

The poetic verse in Son Jarocho, contemporary themes in an emerging Virginia culture

Son Jarocho is a music, a poetry, a culture, from Veracruz, Mexico. It consists of traditional songs and traditional verses which have evolved over hundreds of years in the isolation of the coastal plains of the state of Veracruz, in southern Mexico, adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico. It is a beautiful tradition of rural festivals, of percussive foot dancing, african rhythms on string instruments such as the jarana, requinto, and the arpa, and soaring vocals with clever improvisation. It has parallels in the traditions of rural Appalachia, in the clogging, the oftentimes frenetic string rhythms, the high lonesome vocals. Over the past several years, Estela Knott and Dave Berzonsky have been exploring those parallels, and bringing the music of Veracruz to audiences in Virginia.

In 2016 and 2017, with the support of VFH, they engaged in a residency with Mexican artists, including Zenen Zeferino Huervo, exploring the roots of the son jarocho culture, and culminating in a series of performance presentations, and workshops, in schools and cultural centers in central Virginia. In this grant application, they propose to deepen that work with Zenen Zeferino, focusing particularly on the poetic forms of the traditional son jarocho verses, and adapting them to contemporary themes within the Mexican immigrant community of central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. Through interviews with new immigrants and migrants, they seek to bring out the stories of an emerging, and often invisible culture, and transform those stories into song.

Who are we?

Estela Knott and David Berzonsky, based in Charlottesville, VA are two very experienced and effective performers, teachers and community bridge builders who have a deep love, appreciation and understanding of a multitude of global folk musical traditions. They began their journey together performing with renowned Malian griot and ngoni master Cheick Hamala Diabate, and in their 19 years together have travelled and performed throughout North and South America, and have engaged in extensive study of folk music from Mexico, Peru, and Brazil, performing and recording with artists throughout the Americas. More recently, they run two organizations, Blue Ridge Music Together, which has worked with hundreds of Charlottesville area families teaching family oriented music classes, and Luminaria Cville, which is a cultural arts project which hosts cultural events in collaboration with members of the local Spanish speaking community, including an annual Dia de los Muertos event and the Cville Sabroso Festival. This past year’s festival was the sixth year of the festival, and was in collaboration with WTJU and the IX Art Park with 3,500 people in attendance. The two perform together in their group Lua, which is an original music ensemble that blends elements of Latin and Appalachian song traditions. David also plays upright bass with the acclaimed Gypsy jazz ensemble, The Olivarez Trio.

Zenen Zeferino was born in Jáltipan de Morelos, Veracruz, Mexico in a family of poets and singers, who for several generations have cultivated this form of musical and poetic expression, which has its natural space within the fandango tradition. This style has been kept alive to this day thanks to the cultural transmission through countless generations over hundreds of years. He is a skilled composer of verses who has cultivated the different poetic forms that the jarocho tradition offers. Not only has he compiled the usual stanzas of the fandango, but he has also contributed a large number of new verses to the copious collection of son jarocho verses, showing in this creative practice great sensitivity and charisma. He is even more recognized for his work in improvisation, counting among the best lyrical improvisors in traditional Veracruz music.

Besides being a skilled performer of the jarana, the principal accompaniment instrument of son jarocho, he is the possessor of an outstanding voice that has placed him in a privileged place among the singers of son jarocho. Recently he has ventured into musical composition, enriching the musical aspect of the jarocha tradition.

In 2007 he was awarded the National Prize for Cultural Radio for his work as producer and host of the radio program El Sonoro Sueño in Radiotelevisión de Veracruz and in 2010 he wrote and edited the children’s book Zoóngoro Bailongo, Cuentos de Raíz Jarocha, in which he highlighted the importance of preserving traditions and of respecting and caring for animals and the environment. The book was recently included in the official reading list for elementary school children nationwide in Mexico.

His enormous talent has contributed, to a great extent, to the success and prestige of groups with which he has toured globally: Chuchumbé, Quemayama and his current project, Sonoro Sueño.


Luminaria Cville is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.Contributions for the purposes of Luminaria Cville must be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Mexilachian Son

In this project, Estela, David and Zenen spent time together, during the fall of 2018, interviewing Latino immigrants in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia, collecting their stories, and turning them into song. The medium for this project, was the musical style known as Son Jarocho, which is afro-mestizo musical form emanating from 18th Century Veracruz, Mexico. Zenen Zeferino is a master of this style, and joined Estela and David in reimagining these traditional songs, with Appalachian stylings, and creating new poetic verses that reflect the stories and struggles of the interview subjects, a truly inspiring and humbling undertaking.

Why is this important?

By studying the poetry of Son Jarocho, and by learning the stories of new immigrants, Estela and David seek to shed light on the lives and struggles of a marginalized people in our midst, and edify their stories with the highest level of song craft. Immigration policy and immigrants are hugely divisive political issues. This is inspired in part by the work of journalists James and Deborah Fallows, who have been examining the experience of communities in "heartland America” in reclaiming their civic narrative and redeveloping their economies, often in post-industrial or post small scale agriculture America.

Luray, Harrisonburg, and the central Shenandoah Valley are absolutely places that are attempting to redefine themselves in an environment where middle class factory and agricultural jobs have suffered, as consumer goods manufacture has migrated to other states and countries. In the Fallows’ reporting, rancor over immigration is usually inversely proportional to the presence of actual immigrants in a community. Most communities who have seen a decent amount of immigration to their region in recent years have noted the economic and cultural benefit of these new immigrants.

It is our belief that telling the stories of these individuals and bringing them into an emerging Virginia musical tradition forwards the process of humanizing this population, and bringing them out of marginalization — to everybody’s benefit.