The way a community celebrates is an important aspect of their identity, and La Gomera is no exception. From their festivals, we can deduce the elements that have shaped the Gomeran character over time. The tambores (drums) and chácaras (large local-style castanets) were the musical sounds of the island up until the start of the 20th century, being the only accompaniment to every celebration. Patron saints’ days, new year parties, celebrations of the eve of King’s Day (6th of January), slaughters of pigs and so on, all served to introduce a few moments of distraction from the hard slog of daily life.
In the context of the juelga (participative festivities accompanied by drumming) resonates a local identity that refuses to disappear. Elements from the Spanish mainland culture (ballads, the special type of drum) mix with influences from North Africa (the rhythms and the singing style).
The appearance of folk music played on strings is relatively recent in La Gomera (beginning of the 20th century). As a result of emigration to Cuba a liking developed for punto cubano (a style of improvised singing). Influences came from other Canary Islands too, particularly Tenerife, arriving first to the coastal areas (las isas, folías, malagueñas seguidillas – styles of folkloric music). Typical instruments, as on the other islands, are the guitar, contra or timple (a small guitar-like instrument), violin, lute, and even the clarinet and accordion.
This rich musical heritage, the romancero gomero, is an authentic symbol of the island. The drums and the chácaras narrate the chronicle of birth, marriage, life and death, the daily struggle of existence.