Cantadores in Guapi

By 28 March, 2011

We arrived in Guapi two days ago. The town is full of energy. The air is thick and humid, with lots of activity on the port, and big sound systems that blast vallenato, salsa and reggaeton in every block (they are celebrating Saint Joseph’s day with a parade and tons of partying).

On Sunday we met with Doña Juana and Doña Bonifacia, two local cantadoras (singers).They are carriers of an ancient oral tradition, having learned to sing from their parents and grandparents. Now, none of their descendants are interested in learning their art. Even if young musicians from the cities come and learn their songs (which they do), their song-tradition will be lost when these women pass away. Their singing accompanies rituals as well as daily-life activities.

We listened to the cantadoras stories, and sang and played together for a few hours. They were happy to exchange songs, and asked us to write down lyrics of our music, to add to their repertoire. What an honor! At night, we accompanied them to a funeral, where they sang alabados and prayed. In the funeral tradition of Guapi, the wake lasts 9 days, during which the community gathers to sing and pray for the soul’s peaceful transition to the afterlife.

That same day, we also met with an old marimba player and builder, Don Silvino, and his wife Cornelia, who shared some of their incredible music, including a song that she composed during last christmas. A lot of the afro-colombian music in Guapi is created with a religious theme, and played specifically for religious holidays.

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