The Month of Zambombas

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From the end of November to right up until Christmas there is a constant buzz of activity throughout the center of Jerez; streets that were empty around the normal siesta hours are now filled with people loitering about; traffic lines the streets and people congregate around the ice rink in the main plaza or take photos underneath or by the tree; bars that never have lines are now full around midnight or one.  Like NYC on New Years Eve Jerez for the month of December transforms into the city that doesn’t sleep.  Thanks to the Zambombas.  Throughout the month of December on almost any given night there is sure to be a Zambomba, with at least 10 to 20 different ones found each Friday Saturday and Sunday.

The what….?

Zambomba, pronounced”thambomba” is the main instrument used in a Zambomba, it is a taught piece of cloth pulled over a large pot with a stick through the middle that is then pulled up and down to create drum-like reverberation sound.  Water is used and needed to keep the hands moist and friction low.

Zambomba is also the name of the gathering of people to sing villancicos, or Christmas songs.  It started in the early 1900s when people lived in casa de vecinos, houses that share a common courtyard (they still exist).  The neighbors would gather together around a fire, eat, drink and sing.  For some reason it stopped years later and then was revitalized in the 1950s and morphed into what it is today, a way for many bars, restaurants and brotherhoods to make money.  Not that it’s a bad thing, it brings a lot of tourism to city, people come from all over Spain to visit Jerez during this month.  The ones in bars or restaurants aren’t bad, but they don’t have the same charm as some of the others, if you stray away from the center and into one of the older gypsy neighborhoods like the one I live in you can easily find one that’s less about the spectacle and more about keeping a tradition.   These are the ones where everybody is singing and they’re filled with a old ladies and men who seem to never fatigue.  They start the zambomba in the early to late afternoon and finish it when everybody else tires. Like Semana Santa or the Feria the most amazing aspect is the feeling, the joy and togetherness that transcends all ages from children to adults; the hushes to quiet the crowed when somebody decides to sing a solo, or flipping through the lyric book scrambling to find the right song before it’s too late and the sense of accomplishment in finding it only to realize you have no idea what the melody is.  Each zambomba is different and unique in their own aspects, that’s why I try to go to as many as possible.  I also love singing.

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