Hello! Today we're talking about vallenato, a genre of Colombian folk music that originated in the Caribbean region of the country. I want to share with you a bit about the genre's formation, essential elements, and some examples of what it sounds like, so let's get started :)
Declared by UNESCO in 2015 as part of Intangible Cultural Heritage, vallenato is a genre of folk music from the Caribbean region of Colombia. The basic instruments in vallenato are the caja vallenata (a small drum that is played with the hands and held between the legs, of African origin -- Wikipedia says it could be derived from the Congolese makuta drum), the guacharaca (a ribbed stick played with a three-pronged fork that makes a scraping sound in order to imitate the guacharaca bird, of indigenous Chimila origin. i've seen sometimes it's made of metal, but some sources say it should be made of wood), and the accordion.
(The three core instruments from left to right, la caja vallenata, la guacharaca, and the accordion. image source)
Other instruments used in vallenato are the gaita flute, the bass, and the keyboard.
Vallenato came into being around the beginning of the last century, but it draws on musical tradition before then. Its name means "born in the valley" and is a reference to Valledupar, the place where the genre was born. It was used as a form of sharing news and entertainment among farmers in the region, since it was relatively isolated from the rest of the country. It was considered lower class music, but later gained acceptance across all classes.
3. The Airs
There are 4 aires of vallenato. The first two are son and paseo, played in 4/4 time, and the second two are puya and merengue (not to be confused with the OTHER merengue!), played in 6/8 time.
Son - A lot slower than the other types of vallenato. Its low notes stand out and the guacharaca is also at the forefront. Check out Alicia adorada for an example of what it sounds like.
Paseo - The youngest and most widely recorded type. Its speed is also variable. Listen to El amor, amor for a taste of paseo.
Puya - This one is the oldest of the four, and it goes pretty fast! The verses are also relatively short compared to those of merengue. Each instrumentalist also gets a solo. Here's Cuando el tigre está en la cueva.
Merengue - The style of this type is more narrative and therefore has longer verses than puya. One of the articles states it's also the most danceable, although there is a controversy as to whether or not vallenato is for dancing. Give La vieja Sara a listen.
4. Famous Musicians
5. Final Notes
I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about vallenato with me! If you'd like to hear about another type of music from the Spanish and/or Portuguese speaking world, leave a reply or shoot me a message! Under the cut is the bibliography, I've barely touched the topic so do some reading and get to know the genre! :) See you next time!
P.S. - Vallenato is present in Cien años de soledad, did you spot it?
P.S.S. - my favorite vallenato is soy parrandero y qué, let me know what you think!
Vallenato, tradición y comercio - Héctor González
13 vallenatos que hay que conocer ahora que el ritmo es patrimonio de la humanidad
An Introduction to Vallenato
¿Cuáles son los cuatro aires del vallenato?
Vallenato, the history of an entire region