The “zambomba” of Jerez de la Frontera

Zambomba in La Cruz Vieja

The name

According the Spanish Language Dictionary, “zambomba” is a musical instrument made in wood or baked clay, opened on one side and closed on the other with a very tight skin. At the center, holds on tight a reed stick which when rubbed with wet hands from up to down and from down to top, produces a monotonous throaty strong sound.

The celebration is named after the instrument, no doubt, which is a must have in a traditional Zambomba celebration.

Lately, there has been a controversy related to the name, because there are people who say “zambombá” or “zambombada” instead. Experts declare that the apropried word to use is “zambomba.”

It is common for people to add the suffix -á or -ada to some celebrations names. For example, for the celebration of the motorbike races you can notice that some say “motorada” but others “motorá.” Another good example is when, by the beginning of the Carnival in Cadiz, some say “ostioná” but others “ostionada” to the gathering where oysters are eaten, or “erizá” or “erizada” when the same scenario happen but to eat sea urching in this case.

Anyway, I think that the important thing here is not to loose the essence of these festivities, that what makes them splendid and unique, that one thing that is a magnet to the citizens and foreigners who want to live the experience…

Zambomba, the instrument.

The origin

Back in the 18th century, Christmas was a celebration which gathered not only families and friends, but neighbours above all.

Many of the expectacular stately homes were leased by parts, so that on the same building there were several different families living in.

I can tell that my maternal and paternal grandparents, as well as my parents, they all were raised up in these famous tenement stately homes, in which everyone knew and helped each other disinterestedly.

It is well known that people who live in the south of the Peninsula love to stay outdoors almost all day, that’s why the courtyard or patio of the building was a very important area.

When stately homes where occupied by just one family, the patio or courtyard witnessed every thing that happened, and later on, transformed into tenement stately homes, neighbours spent many hours in the patio sharing confidences, dayly problems, recipies, gossips… Life was slowly cooked in the patios!

Truth is that during summer time, people love to spend long hours in the cool patios, but it is also truth that during winter, we look foward to warming ourselves close to the fire set in the middle of it.

By Christmas, neighbours used to go downstairs to the courtyard as usual, to get warmed up by the heat of the fire, bringing some food to fill the stomach, pastries to sweeten the gathering and, definitely, some sherry and anise licor. Once finished, the anise bottle served to heat the hearts of those who sung couplets and typical carols, with the sound that it produces when rubing any metal cutlery up and down against it over and over again.

Along the anise licor bottle, some carried the zambomba and the tambourine, harmonise the sound of traditional carols when they started to be sung in a lower voice. As these gatherings started to be celebrated outdoors at the gipsy squares and streets quarters, they added spanish guitars, they sung flamenco carols and danced too.

And by mixing al these ingredients together, that’s how you organice a nice zambomba, ladies and gents!

The zambomba, BIC since 2015

Finally in 2015, the Government Council for the Junta de Andalucía included the zambomba of Jerez as well as the one of Arcos de la Frontera in the general catalogue of the Andalusian Historical Heritage as an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC in spanish)

It was then when the zambomba started to proliferate, being also celebrated not only at flamenco peñas, Holy Week brotherhoods, associations and ancient quarters, but also at discos, restaurants and pubs too.

Currentñy, they even start to organize zambombas by the second half of November, being by the tradition to celebrate them right after the Inmaculate festivity in December… (I foresee someday soon where we will be celebrating Halloween in costumes playing the zambomba, my goodness!)

How and where to enjoy them?

The Nazarenus brotherhood Zambomba.

Fortunately, for all those visitors who don’t quite know when to join one, and for those who don’t want to miss a thing, the city hall website of Jerez, along others websites and social media, compile a huge list of day by day zambomba, where they take place and the time they start (as you never know when they finish…)

And keep in mind to visit too the magnificent and traditional nativity scenes set all along the city at churches, associations, shops and more establishments.

Nevertheless, if you feel like sightseeing and get to know the curiosities and leyends of the sherry land, please, contact me in here or in my social media.

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