Colombian band Cimarrón announced that the group’s musical director and harp player Carlos “Cuco” Rojas died on Friday, January 10, 2020, in Bogotá, Colombia, after suffering a heart condition.
Cimarrón is Colombia’s best know joropo act. Carlos Rojas Hernández, an educator and innovator of the Colombian joropo, achieved a widely recognized career in more than 38 countries on five continents, alongside his romantic partner, singer Ana Veydó.
The band’s press releases states: “Carlos Rojas Hernández leaves an indelible mark on the history of Colombian music, with his name in dozens of record productions as a performer, producer, arranger and composer.
Cimarrón is committed to honor the legacy, memory, life and work of its eternal director and harper.”
The Grupo Cimarrón ensemble is known for their explosive música llanera (plains music) and fast-paced, triple-meter joropo. They live up to the meaning of their name Cimarrón: “wild bull.”
Since creating Grupo Cimarrón in 1986, leader and harpist Carlos Rojas has looked both backward and forward in time. The música llanera and joropo have roots in 19th-century Colombia, and the style of singing, playing and instruments used have been carefully modeled on tradition. The ensemble has created a new mix by emphasizing rhythm and creativity and insisting that joropo dance be a part of the performance wherever possible. Grupo Cimarrón has performed in China, Europe, and North and South America.
Harp, guitars (bandola and cuatro), maracas, wooden box drum (cajón) and the rhythm of the dancers’ feet are the instruments used by the high-energy Grupo Cimarrón, all of whom carry strong ties to the cattle country of the Colombian plains. Each band member is a virtuoso in his or her own discipline, and the albums provides a medium for both collective and individual expression.
The group’s 2004 Smithsonian Folkways release Sí, Soy Llanero earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best Traditional World Album.
Cimarrón musical director and harper Carlos “Cuco” Rojas died on Friday, January 10, 2020, in Bogotá, Colombia
Colombian pianist and composer Claudia Calderón was born in Palmira, Colombia in 1959. She moved to Venezuela in 1987.
She has specialized in performing music from the Venezuelan and Colombian traditional sources, as well as performing classical, romantic and contemporary piano repertoire, often playing her own compositions. Based on traditional harp music, Claudia Calderon’s folkloric piano music preserves and promotes the ethnic music of the mountains, plains and coasts of Venezuela and Colombia.
After studying in her native Cali and Bogotá , she graduated in piano performing at the Musikhochshule in Hanover, Germany. She also studied courses in Italy under pianist Gyorgy Sandor and composition Professor Diether De La Motte.
Claudia Calderón has held teaching positions in several Venezuelan Institutions such as Conservatory and the IUDEM, in Caracas.
She has also developed musicological research in Colombian and Venezuelan ethnic music, at the FUNDEF Institute in Caracas, and has published several papers on the specific subject of Colombian and Venezuelan harp music and joropo. She has produced and published the first complete and exact set of transcriptions of Joropo harm music from different historic ethnomusicological recordings, setting a new standard in the studies of this relatively unknown genre.
Mrs. Calderón has toured extensively in solo and chamber music formations in Colombia, Venezuela, England, France, Germany, South Africa and Mexico.
She moved back to Colombia and currently lives in Yopal, Casanare province..
El Piano Llanero (Fundación Bigott, 2001) Piano de Pedro Morales Pino (Banco de la República, 2004) El Piano Llanero II (Fundación Bigott, 2007) Piano Xarocho (Fundación Arpamerica, 2011)
Joropo is a musical genre and dance form found in the plains of Venezuela. Los Llanos, the broad plains of western Venezuela and eastern Colombia, watered by the Orinoco River and its tributaries, are home to música llanera (literally, “plains music”), the engaging musical traditions created by ranching people with a love for cattle, horses, music and dance. At the heart of this region’s music is joropo, a hard-driving music that brilliantly showcases the percussive capabilities of stringed instruments and the musician’s ability to improvise.
The main instrument of llanera music is perhaps an unexpected one – the harp. Introduced to South America in the 18th century by the Spaniards, in the hands of the llanero, or plains cowboy, the harp became a percussive dynamo that serves as the backbone of música llanera Joropo ensembles are generally comprised of the harp, the bandola llanera (a four-stringed pear-shaped guitar), the small four-stringed cuatro, contrabajo (acoustic bass), rounded out by maracas (gourd rattles) and vocals.
Joropo music features both slower, more lyrical songs called pasajes as well as faster tunes called golpes. The hallmarks of the traditional joropo singer are a powerful voice that can handle the fast, hard-edged vocal style and the ability to improvise the lyrics.
As rural llaneros and musicians have migrated to cities for economic opportunities, the music of the plains has gained prominence in Colombia and Venezuela and is now a part of the commercial music industry and festivals Música llanera has become an expression a regional pride.
Joropo oriental – Joropo Oriental is a rare Venezuelan version of the genre that is characterized by an improvisational style of singing, a variety of stringed instruments such as the bandola, mandolin, guitar and cuatro plus a regionally distinct style of maracas that provides the only percussive element.
Sources: Richmond Folk Festival, Old Town School of Folk Music
Amelia Romano – New Perspectives (indie release, 2017)
American harpist Amelia Romano plays a mix of instrumentals and songs on New Perspectives, scheduled for release later this month. I was drawn to her instrumentals, which is where she shows her talent as a harp player and composer.
Romano’s music combines blues, jazz, classical and Latin American music elements like joropo from Venezuela, Argentine tango and Mexican-style bolero. She likes to explore unpredictable rhythms from Latin America, a region with a remarkable harp tradition, although she breaks stereotypes by playing what is normally a man’s instrument.
Amelia Romano enjoys using her beautiful cobalt blue harp to extract new sounds, textures and also as an attractive visual element.
With New Perspectives, Amelia Romano shows great potential as a genre-defying composer and arranger.