By: Fredwill Hernandez
A [musical] seed through a family bond that was planted some thirty years ago has fully blossomed in what I can very proudly, confidently [and in my personal opinion] consider a classic Latin album of predominately son jarocho [a regional folk musical style of Mexican son from Veracruz] rightfully titled Ayer, Hoy, y Para Siempre [Spanish for Yesterday, Today, and Forever], by Hermanos Herrera, a musical group [who hails from Fillmore, Ca. and is] comprised of five brothers and one sister.
“We were introduced to Mexican folk music at a very young age. In fact, our father had a harp made for our oldest brother before he was even born! We were born into it and surrounded by music every day. Our father would play traditional Mexican music like sones jarochos and sones huastecos [which is one of eight Mexican song styles from the six state area of Northeastern Mexico called La Huasteca] around the house, while our mother would take over the record player and put on musica ranchera [ranchera music],” explained one of the brothers who proudly acknowledged that music has helped shape their identity. “We heard it all growing up and soaked it up like a sponge. Before our first day of kindergarten our dad had already given us music lessons. By the time we were in first and second grade we were already performing at local parties. Our first official gig came 30 years ago when we opened up at the Majestic Ventura Theater for the legendary group Los Lobos. That was in 1990. We’ve been at it ever since.”
The twelve-song album which defines where they came from [Ayer], what they are [Hoy], and the legacy they hope to leave behind [y Para Siempre], is owed to [among other things to] their upbringing.
“Our musical journey started over 30 years ago. We owe everything we’ve learned to our parents, our uncles, and several master musicians in Mexico. We have been playing music for 30 years and will continue to do so until we no longer can. All of the brothers in the band are also new fathers. We are now in the position our parents and teachers were 30 years ago. Just like our parents did, we are passing our musical knowledge to our own kids,” explained the group who recorded the album in their hometown of Fillmore, Ca., with the help of Joe Beebe, who has worked with greats such as; Willie Nelson, Foo Fighters, Tenacios D, and more. “We’ve learned many valuable lessons from our parents, but one of the most crucial to our development was understanding who we are and where we come from. Our parents proudly passed on many traditions to us and exposed us to our rich cultural history. We definitely wear our culture like a badge of pride. Everything we do in relation to music is to further expose and disseminate our culture. We don’t play music to make money, or to get famous. We are students of the music. We study it in hopes of becoming better, and we perform it in hopes of further spreading the beauty that is Mexican folklore.”
Hermanos Herrera who play three styles of music: son jarocho, son huasteco, [and musica norteña, a genre of Regional Mexican music from Northern Mexico, hence the name] inherited their enthusiasm and talent for Mexican music from the previous generations of family members, who were active musicians.
“Ayer, Hoy, y Para Siempre is different than all other [of our previous] recordings because it connects our musical beginnings to the present and looks to the future. Son jarocho, was the first style we ever learned. It was mostly taught to us by our father Jorge Herrera and our Tio [Uncle] Tomas “Tommy” Herrera. The album starts with a recording the two eldest brothers made during a practice session over 30 years ago. On the track “El Toro Zacamandu” our Tío Tommy is playing the requinto jarocho. In our opinion, he is the best requinto jarocho player in the world! We’ve been blessed to learn from amazing teachers. Although this is album our first [predominately] jarocho album, we decided to [also] include a popular bolero titled “Veracruz,” and a ranchera [“La Barca de Oro”] to pay homage to our grandparents. “La Barca de Oro” is a very old ranchera and was a particular favorite of our abuelitos [grandparents]. If it were not for the sacrifices of our grandparents and our parents, we would not have the opportunities we have today. We felt it was important to pay homage to those that helped all of this come to fruition,” also explained the group who in 2018 released a previous album [titled] Sones Harochos y Huastecos y Mas for the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings [the “National Museum of Sound” of the Smithsonian], and have been recognized [abroad] for their music, live performances, and helping spread the word and keeping Mexican Folklore alive. “Son huasteco is a completely different genre of traditional music from Mexico. I believe we have four son huasteco albums. The first was released over 20 years ago. Within the son huasteco genre we have been recognized as cultural ambassadors. We were awarded the “Sol Poniente” award in Amatlan, Veracruz — Mexico in 2004, for our efforts in preserving and promoting this style of music. Amatlan, Veracruz hosts an annual Festival de Huapango [son huasteco]. The award equates to a lifetime achievement award. Hermanos Herrera also have the honor of being painted into the town mural which depicts the history of son huasteco and the history of the festival in Amatlan.”
Accomplishing and doing everything with love, passion, and pride: Hermamos Herrera added, “The album title and the album artwork are all part of the message we are trying to get out there. Ayer, Hoy, y Para Siempre represents our musical past, present, and future. The fist on the album artwork represents unity. Everything we do, we do as a family. We are united, and in unity you find strength. The fist also represents the people, the masses, and the underrepresented. It’s a beautiful image, a powerful image, and overall a positive image. Together in unity we can all move towards a better tomorrow.”