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Maraca Fusion in Bolivar Hall: Venezuelan music straddling the line between tradition and modernity PDF Print E-mail

maraca2On the 6th of August the distinguished Venezuelan maraca player Manuel Alejandro Rangel played a concert in London's Bolivar Hall, the cultural centre of the Embassy of Venezuelan in the United Kingdom, accompanied by his compatriots Leonidas Rondon on the cuatro (traditional Venezuelan stringed instrument), Leonard Jacome on the harp and Aleph Aguiar on guitar. The spectacle touched upon the wide spectrum of Venezuelan musical tradition, utilizing an eclectic accompaniment of visual aides to create a fusion of different influences.

The concert, which was attended by a varied and numerous audience, was part of the cultural events organised by the Venezuelan Embassy in the UK, alongside the Agency for the Representation of Artists of the Venezuelan Ministry for Culture. One of the performers, Rangel, is a classical guitar player who has performed in various festivals around the world and is a professor in maracas in the Simon Bolivar Conservatoire in Caracas. As for the cuatro player, Leonidas Rondon, he is also known as a jazz guitarist and winner of the national prize, "The Birth of the Cuatro", while Leonard Jacome founded the position dedicated to Harp music from the llanos (the idealised grassy plains occupied by cowboys and musicians in the southern half of Venezuela) in the acclaimed system of National Orchestras of Venezuela (El Sistema), and is one of the best harp players in the country.

The programme of 'Maraca Fusion', a musical journey in which electronic technology was incorporated into Venezuelan tradition with an acoustic cuatro and an electric harp, started with interpretations by Rangel and Rondon of the pieces 'El Catire', originally by Aldemaro Romero, and was continued with the joropos (Venezuelan dances) 'Quitapesares', 'Canta y Baila Joropo' and 'No me pregunten por ella'. Shortly afterwards, the harp took centre stage, with Jacome playing alongside the main maraca player in an interpretation of 'A mis hermanos' by Aquiles Baez and 'El Rampuche', an original composition by the aforementioned harpist.

Following this, a number of solo pieces were played by Rangel, with 'Corral de Ordeno' by Simon Diaz and 'Temazcal', his own composition which was accompanied by audiovisual projections superimposed onto a backdrop which evoked the hallucinogenic 'peyote' rituals of the indigenous peoples of Central America, culminating in the three musicians' interpretation of the song, 'Pajarillo', with the help of Aleph Aguiar, an expert Venezuelan guitarist based in London, in a performance which finished with a prolonged ovation from the audience.

On the 12th of August, Rangel and Rondon will play in the Vortex jazz club in London with their band Pataruco, while Rangel will also feature in a special performance with the Family Atlantic band lead by the singer and musician Luzmira Zerpa, in the prestigious Southbank Centre.

The Bolivar Hall Cultural Centre, part of the cultural section of the Embassy of Venezuela in the United Kingdom, is set to continue promoting a variety of Venezuelan artistic activities encouraging a dialogue between Venezuelan artists and the British public, through a wide range of musical events. This will include performances in the coming months of groups such as 'Afrocodigos', the bolero singers 'The Brothers Rodriguez Trio', the composer Jose Delgado with his trio, the 'Pentacorde' ensemble, and the expert mandolin player Moises Torrealba.

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