The ‘Zambomba Jerezana’ takes place during the month of December. It is a celebration during which flamenco style carols are sung in the streets of the town of Jerez de la Frontera, in the province of Cádiz.
The Zambomba is different from the rest of the flamenco festivals, mainly because in this celebration everyone can take part, either by singing or playing any typical instrument.
Why is it called Zambomba?
The name comes from the typical instrument used at Christmas time, which accompanies popular canticles and Christmas carols since old times.
It is a kind of improvised percussive instrument, which used to be made from a clay flowerpot or a paint tin. Over the pot, a piece of leather is stretched and a cane or a stick inserted through the skin. The up-and-down movement of the stick creates the characteristic droning sound of the Zambomba.
Origin of this festival
The Zambomba backgrounds are found in the social gatherings in squares and neighbours’ courtyards, which took place on Christmas Eve. Around bonfires, friends and families sang carols and danced spontaneously while local wine, punch, anise and traditional pastries were passed round.
However, the Zambomba was not the only instrument used back then, other improvised instruments such as anise bottles rubbed by spoons, mortars, little bells or tambourines, were also used to accompany the carols.
The current Zambomba Festival
Within the last decades, the Zambomba has been blooming to the point of having been declared Heritage of Cultural Interest.
Nowadays, they are performed not only in the streets but in brotherhoods, wine cellars, cultural institutions, clubs, bars, etc. Most of them are pre-arranged, hired renowned flamenco groups sometimes; while others are more ‘improvised’, and bring people to participate by clapping hands, singing, playing an instrument or dancing.
A brief review and some tips
If you decide to go to Jerez to enjoy the Zambomba Jerezana I recommend you approach several of them in the daytime because in the evening it is not easy to get closed and much less in case it is indoors. The queues are unavoidable even going one or two hours prior to its start. It might be because the temperature is pretty low at night, which, unfortunately, caught me by surprise.
There are several sites with the programme of the Zambombas, but the one on the web of Jerez Council may be the most complete. Only the ones celebrated in private places do not have to ask for the pertinent permit.
I felt a little disappointed by the fact that most of the zambombas I passed by were displayed with one purpose, to get money. I could say I barely found any ‘authentic’ zambomba. I mean a zambomba not organized for tourism. It could be understandable taking into account that this tradition was close to disappearing just some decades ago. Anyway, I may not have walked around Jeréz as long as I should in order to come across any or those genuine zambombas. I will go back next year. Let´s see what happens.