Zenen Zeferino Huervo (b. October 6, 1971) is a jarana player, singer, composer, and poet from Veracruz, Mexico. Born in a family of traditional musicians, Mr. Zeferino Huervo has been one of the major figures in the field of son jarocho (the traditional music of Veracruz) and is largely responsible for reviving the genre in contemporary performance and recording after it had almost disappeared during the 1960s and 1970s.
Zeferino Huervo’s musical training comes from the environment in which he grew up. He learned how to sing from his mother and to play the jarana from his godfather. From an early age he ventured into poetic improvisation, which is a common art in the state of Veracruz. As such, he has developed a particular style of singing, playing and improvising, which has made him one of the most important figures of traditional musical expression in Mexico.
In 1999, Zeferino Huervo co-founded the group Chuchumbé, which favored the recording and performance of a combination of songs from the traditional repertoire (dating back to the 1700s) and new compositions by the ensemble. With Chuchumbé, Zeferino Huervo recorded two albums – Caramba Niño (1999)* and Contrapuntea’o (2005)*.
Some highlights of Chuchumbe’s trajectory are: performances at the World Exposition of Hannover, Germany (2001)*; the Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato, Mexico (2001), the Latin Passion Festival of Hong Kong*; and a US tour during 2005 and 2006 with the organization Arts Midwest*.
Chuchumbé parted ways in 2006 and Zeferino Huervo formed the group Quemayama, which strove to revive of what has been referred to as the “third root” of son jarocho music: the African influence. Indeed, the members of Quemayama engaged in a thorough research on songs and rhythms that were brought to Mexico with the slave trade of the colonial period, of which some records exist. Though the group never recorded a full-length album, their contribution has been recognized as pivotal in the understanding of son jarocho as a musical genre, but also in the contributions of the Afro-Mexican community to the cultural and artistic expressions of certain regions of the country. With Quemayama, Zeferino Huervo performed at the Cervantino Festival in 2006.
Currently, Zeferino Huervo has formed a new ensemble called Sonoro Sueño, with which he performs mainly songs he has written and composed. Some titles include “Los Cotorritos” (“Little Parrots”), which is a tongue-twister made into song for audiences to repeat after the singer, creating a game of call-and-response; “El Misterio,” a song about the environmental degradation of Veracruz and how it has affected the native communities that live there; and “El Solecito,” a lullaby for children; among others. Sonoro Sueño is a young project and its members are in the process of finishing their first album, tentatively called “Lirio.”
Since the late 1990s, Zeferino Huervo has participated in numerous poetry festivals and recitals, competing with some of the most important traditional bards of Latin America. His work has been featured in written and audio anthologies in Mexico: El canto de la memoria (Universidad Veracruzana Press, 2001)* and “Sones y versos dedicados al medio ambiente [Songs and Verses Dedicated to the Environment]*, recorded in 2013 by CONABIO, Mexico’s National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity; in Colombia: “Piano Xarocho,” recorded in Bogota, Colombia in 2011*; and Venezuela: “America le canta a Bolivar” [America Sings to Bolivar], recorded in 2012.*
Zenen has participated in national and international improvisation competitions, including the 2nd Encounter of Latin American and Caribbean Poets and Improvisers in San Luis Potosi, Mexico (1999); in the Peace Festival of El Salvador (2001); in the Cucalambean Series in Las Tunas, Cuba (2003)*; and the Improvisation Festival of Gran Canaria, Spain (2006)*.
TV and Radio
During 2004 and 2005, he participated in the TV show “El cristal con que se mira” in national TV network TELEVISA, anchored by political analyst and comedian Victor Trujillo. In this show, Mr. Zeferino sang and improvised verses about current political issues on the evening news.
During 2006 and 2007, Zenen Zeferino hosted the radio show Sonoro Sueno for Veracruzan network RTV, in which he interviewed traditional musicians from around the world.
In 2010 Zenen collaborated in the TV show “Ya cayo” in national network TV Azteca, where he improvised ten line stanzas and riddles related to the current political situation.
Works for Children
In 2006 Zeferino Huervo received a special fellowship from the National Foundation for Arts and Culture (Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, FONCA) to compose 10 songs for kids. Some of those compositions will be featured in Zenen’s album with the ensemble Sonoro Sueño.
In 2009, Mr. Zeferino Huervo wrote the book Zoongoro Bailongo: Cuentos de raiz jarocha. In this collection of five short stories set in the southern region of Veracruz, Mexico, the author takes readers into a magical world where a lioness, a mosquito, a chaquiste, a turtle, a wild pig, an armadillo, and a donkey are transformed into musical instruments of the son jarocho tradition. A wise old cedar named Cedronio is the one responsible for these metamorphoses. He is devoted to saving humanity from the silent monster that threatens and devours the forests: garbage. Each short story explains in poetic and vivid language the birth of the traditional guitars jaranas, named for the animals that resemble their shapes. The inclusion of riddles and a glossary round out this valuable storytelling resource.
In 2011, together from musicians from Mexico and Spain, Zenen Zeferino recorded on the album Piano Xarocho, which was a chamber project combining the musical tradition of Mexican son jarocho, and Colombo-Venezuelan joropo, highlighting their Arab-Andalusian origins with Baroque and contemporary Afro-Caribbean influences. With that project, Mr. Zeferino Huervo performed in major venues of Colombia and Mexico, including Teatro Mayor and Sala Luis Angel Arango in Bogota and Villa de Leyva respectively. In Mexico, he performed at the prestigious Casa del Lago theater in Mexico City.
Currently, Zenen Zeferino performs as a special guest with Tembembe Ensemble Continuo, an ensemble of traditional and baroque music that has toured extensively through Latin America and Europe. With Tembembe, Mr. Zeferino has performed in the Shanghai International Market (2014); the 42nd Cervantino Festival (2014)*; the International Early Music Festival of Lima, Peru (2014)*; and the Bard Festival of Casablanca, Chile (2016), among others.
Together with Tembembe, Zenen Zeferino Huervo has become a guest artist of Jordi Savall’s, the famed baroque musician, for his "El Nuevo Mundo" project, which unveils the connections between baroque European and Mexican traditional musics. With Mr. Savall, Zenen has performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2010)*; in the Fontfroide Abbey of Narbonne, France (2014)*; in the 10th International Music Festival of Cartagena, Colombia (2014)*; and the Festspielhus of Baden-Baden, Germany (2015)*.
Awards and Recognitions:
2007 – National Radio Award for his weekly show “Sonoro Sueno” (Sonorous Dream)
2012 – Recipient of the Guillermo Chazaro Lago Medal by the Governor of the state of Veracruz, Fidel Herrera.
2015 – Recipient of the Guillermo Chazaro Lagos Award by the non-profit Que Siga el Fandango, for his long trajectory and accomplishments as a son jarocho performer and poet.