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Toño García: A Tribute to the Cacique of the Gaita

By 25 February, 2019

“Why wouldn’t Toño Garcia deserve a tribute, we are actually late to do so”, points out Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto’s Wilson ‘El Tambolero’ Fontalvo, in the documentary released today as a tribute to the 89-year-old.

It’s true. In the paradoxical world of folkloric legends there are few bigger, yet less celebrated, forces than Colombian Gaitero, Antonio ‘Toño’ García. Until now.

In this new documentary from Colombian stalwarts of cultural-musical preservation, Llorona Records, the life of a legend is recounted. A concise 14 minutes in run-time, it packs in reflections and the story of Toño and the unmistakable cries of his gaita.

The gaita, explains Fontalvo at one point, follows the player: “gaitas help you express your feelings, and since Toño is all good and noble, that’s how his gaita feels.”

From starting out as a corn and yuca farmer, learning from his idol Mañe Mendoza and practicing gaita in the jungle before a 20-year hiatus, it’s a real-life story of humble beginnings that haven’t much, in personal demeanour at least, grown beyond their origins.

Those closest to him, fellow Gaiteros de San Jacinto, along with his nephew, Rafael Pérez García, recount the story of Toño’s life. Toño himself features only fleetingly in a scene here or there, without talking; this is his tribute, after all.

As the gaita itself is also fleetingly celebrated too throughout the documentary, its place a treasure keeping tradition alive, it becomes patently obvious that the instrument itself is inseparable from its cacique (chief). Of the current era, there is no doubt, who that Cacique is; one Toño Garcia of course.

Watch this beautiful and inspiring tribute to an undeniable great in the video at the top of this page.

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