How to recognize a country is the challenge of creating an identity. Music is one of the most useful ways to create that identity. Mexicans have their mariachis, Spaniards have their flamenco and Brazilians have their samba. Do you know what Colombians have?
“Vallenato” is a musical genre that was born in Valledupar and spread throughout Colombia to become a symbol of identity. “El Vallenato” was born as an oral expression of the peasants who told their stories toned with a guitar. Later, vallenato became a musical genre with the arrival of the accordion to the Caribbean coast when a German ship that went to Argentina ran aground and its merchandise (the diatonic accordion) arrived in Colombia. The first accordion used in the vallenato was “BESAS” (international score) which in Spanish means kisses. However, it was not until 1960 that the first vallenato festival was created. This was promoted by Consuelo Araujo Noguera, known as “La Cacica”, minister of culture; Rafael Escalona, vallenato composer; and Alfonso Lopez Michelsen, president of Colombia at the time.
“Vallenato” is composed of six airs: “paseo, son, merengue, puya, cumbia and weeping vallenato”. These last two are not recognized in all the jugglers of the vallenato because only the first four are evaluated in the festival of La Leyenda Vallenata. The first air, the son, is recognized by his patience when interpreting it, since it is a slow and tasty air. The walk is the most played air in the vallenato, due to its ease for singing and accompaniment with percussion. The merengue was an adaptation to the Dominican merengue, that with speed and flavor, the interpretation is realized like a dance. Finally, the “puya” the fastest air of vallenato and represents the strong feeling, like the joy or the despair.
The main interpreters of this genre are: Diomedes Diaz, Poncho Zuleta, Los Betos, Jorge Oñate, among others. In the accordion, the main interpreters are: Nicolas "Colacho" Mendoza, Gonzalo Arturo "El Cocha" Molina, Hugo Carlos Granados, and Álvaro Lopez. Lastly, the vallenato underwent a change due to the need to innovate. The person in charge of it was Kaleth Morales, who opened the doors for the vallenato new wave. It was complemented with band, being before only box, “guacharaca” and accordion. Kaleth was recognized for innovating in the presentation of the vallenato, next to Silvestre Dangond.
Lastly, Vallenato has created Colombian identity since it became a musical genre. Wherever you go, you will feel proud of your country if you listen to a vallenato. It is a challenge for new interpreters to let on high level this genre. I hope you contribute to keep Vallenato as a Colombian identity.