The typical joropo song begins with a fast homophonic block of melody and rhythm, stringed instruments led by folk-harp and bandola guitar, and percussion — BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! And then a piercing nasal vocal cry: “Aaaay!”
It’s the call of the cattleman, herding his charges. Joropo is music born of the plains that extend from Colombia into Venezuela. Though the area has since the late 1900s seen the advance of the oil industry, it has a longer tradition as ranchland. And that’s where joropo, and other plains music (“música llanera”), comes from. Like a lot of regional folk music — from Cajun and Creole in southwest Louisiana to Tex-Mex conjunto — joropo is high-energy and highly emotional, declamatory, full of boasts and laments, and created to be performed with dancers.