A musician named a Living Human Treasure and regarded as a pillar of the music called son jarocho died yesterday in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca. Elías Meléndez Núñez was 95.
Born in Playa Vicente in 1922, Meléndez obtained his first musical instrument at the age of 12, a small requinto, a type of guitar, and went on to become one of the best known jaraneros of the Papaloapan River basin, said the federal Culture Secretariat in announcing his death.
Both the jarana and the requinto are essential instruments in the music for which Don Elías was famous, son jarocho, a regional folk music most commonly associated with the state of Veracruz.
He spent more than 80 years working to spread and conserve the music by playing and teaching, founding several bands and making four records.
In 2012 his contribution to music was recognized by the Program for Cultural Development in Sotavento, which named Meléndez a Living Human Treasure.
That recognition was followed a year later with the presentation of the Andrés Vega Delfín medal during a gathering of jaraneros at the annual festival of the Candelaria in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz, where he played every year.
The medal was presented for Meléndez’ efforts in sharing his musical knowledge among new generations.
Meléndez spent the last few years of his life in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca, teaching historical tunings at a cultural workshop.