Listening songs from “Ranchos de Pascua” is a back to the past. We are talking about a tradition with more than four centuries of history.
The history of Ranchos de pascua
The Ranchos de Pascua started being the “Ranchos de Ánimas”, which were introduced in the Canary Islands by the franciscans in the XVI century. It is composed by a big group of people going through the towns singing their songs, normally, pitiful songs with which it was remembered the deceased. But, why the deceased? The meaning of Ánimas in Latin is “soul”. These groups have their origin in the brotherhoods in which their believers prayed and celebrated Masses in honour to the Ánimas, with the conviction that if they made this, they were helping them to leave the purgatory.
In the route through the towns, they collected offerings, money, etc. to make the Mass in honour of the deceased. In spite of this tradition has disappeared in most of the islands, nowadays the only place where are still collected alms for the Mass in honour of the deceased people is in Teror, in Gran Canaria island.
They started the route on the All Saints’ Eve and carried on until the 2nd February, the Candelaria Day. However, the pitiful hymns and the prayers for the deceased turned into lively songs for the Christmas time, so all their songs were dedicated to this feast day. In fact, this made that, with the passage of time, these celebrations were transformed into today we know as Ranchos de Pascua. In other islands, like in Fuerteventura, this tradition is still alive but just for the town’s festivities, like it happens in Tiscamanita.
The main instruments in these groups is the hand drum or tambourine, although later on other instruments have been added like the castanets, the triangle, the timple (a small guitar, very traditional in the Canary Islands), or the guitar. Their songs have normally a poetic, rural and religious tonality, and also the arabic influence which was brought by colonists after many years of Arabic invasion in the Spanish peninsula. In the Canary archipelago were living many Moorish people as well; all this, and the portuguese and peninsular traditions, created a very peculiar kind of music.
Nowadays, the Ranchos de Pascua come together principally in the eastern islands. However, the western islands still have groups known as “Lo Divino”, very similar to the Ranchos de Pascua, and probably with the same origin.
In Lanzarote island, one of the most popular Rancho de Pascua is in the Villa de Teguise, as it is one of the oldest groups of the Canary Islands. It is said that it dates from the XVI century, because on that period they sang in the church on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and the Three Kings Day (on 6th January).
For these festivities, you will have the chance to enjoy the Ranchos de Pascua of Lanzarote. As much in Teguise as in other localities, take place the Ranchos de Pascua to keep this tradition, which tries to survive in spite of the foreign traditions.