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Title: Mejoranera  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Cumbia, Music of Panama, Central American music, Plucked string instrument, List of styles of music: G–M
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


String instrument
Classification chordophone
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 321.322
(necked lute)
Related instruments
bandola, bandolin, viola de cocho

The mejorana is a folkloric Chordophone from Panama. It is carved from one block of wood (usually cedar[1]) or from dry fibers of Bejuco, and is shaped like a small guitar. It has five nylon, horse hair, or gut strings.[2][3] The mejorana is tuned in either an e'-b-a-a'-d' (by 2) or an e'-b-g-g'-d' (by 6) sequence [1] A mejoranera player is called a mejoranero or mejoranera depending if it is a male or female player. Typically this instrument is played only by men.

A common mejoranera tuning.


  • History 1
  • Construction 2
  • Cultural importance and usage 3
  • References 4


The first Spanish conquistadors arrived on the isthmus of Panama in the early part of the sixteenth century, in which sailors brought a style of tap dance known to them as "zapateo", now known as "mejorana" dance, which includes this instrument.[4] The mejorana is similar to a guitar but slightly smaller and with a shorter neck; this is due to the relation of the baroque guitar that was brought over from Europe. It first appeared at the town of La Mesa in Veraguas, but is now popular in all central provinces, Veraguas, Herrera and Los Santos, and the most representative musical instrument of this country.


The mejorana is traditionally carved out of a single block of wood. Although nowadays there are some mejoraneras with bent sides like a guitar, most are still made in this traditional way. The measurements are: 13.5 - 12 - 22 cms. From the top, 40 cm. of the Fund, 8 cms. height, 22 cm. Mango, 10 cms. Pala, and 62 cms. total length.[5]

The mejorana is a bit smaller than a guitar, the fretboard and neck or shorter. It uses five strings, which initially were: dry reed fibers, horsehair, later today guts and nylon. The wood used to build the mejorana is cedar. It is used to accompany singers' and troubadours' vernacular.[6]

Cultural importance and usage

The mejorana is used in many of the folkloric music in Panama, but most importantly within songs that are themselves called "mejoranas". These mejoranas are romantic ballads that are sung exclusively by men in the community in either the privacy of their own home or at public celebrations. For this same reason, there is a heavy importance in the mejorana, for they are the primary instrument of choice for these men who sing mejoranas.[7] There is an important annual folk festival in Panama called the Festival of Mejorana that takes place in Guarare, the center of folkloric Panamanian culture.


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^ The Stringed Instrument Database
  4. ^ Jones, Ken (2010). "Typical Music in Panama". Panama Business and Travel. Focus Publications. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  5. ^ "Ficha de la Mejorana". Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  6. ^ Intrumentos musicales. "Instrumentos Musicales". Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  7. ^ Rey, A.; Schaeffer, M. (1945). "Boletin del Instituto de Investigaciones Folkloricas". California Folklore Quarterly 4 (4): 436.  

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