Betsayda and Juan
BETSAYDA MACHADO & PARRANDA EL CLAVO
La Situacion opens - “Yo fui por el mercado bien la madrugada …”
Adam Kampe: THAT’S VENEZUELAN MUSICIAN, BETSAYDA MACHADO WITH HER BAND PARRANDA EL CLAVO. I’M ADAM KAMPE FOR THE NEA BLOG, ARTWORKS. A HEADS UP. THIS STORY IS DIFFERENT THAN WHAT WE NORMALLY POST IN THAT IT’S BILINGUAL. THROUGHOUT THIS PIECE, YOU’LL HEAR BETSAYDA MACHADO TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH BY THE NEA’S INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITIES SPECIALIST, GUIOMAR OCHOA. YOU’LL ALSO HEAR THE BAND’S MANAGER, JUAN SOUKI. HIS PART IS IN ENGLISH. THE BAND STOPPED BY THE CONSTITUTION CENTER TO PERFORM AT THE TAIL END OF HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH. IT’S NOT EVERY DAY A BUNCH OF BUREAUCRATS, MYSELF INCLUDED, DANCE ON THEIR LUNCH BREAK. ANYWAYS, THE BAND WAS IN THE US AS PART OF THE REMARKABLE PROGRAM, SOUTHERN EXPOSURE.
Guiomar Ochoa on what exactly that is.
Me Meo, Juliana
Guiomar Ochoa: SOUTHERN EXPOSURE IS A NATIONAL INITIATIVE THAT BRINGS CONTEMPORARY AND TRADITIONAL PERFORMING ARTS FROM LATIN AMERICA TO AUDIENCES ACROSS THE UNITED STATES. IT PROVIDES FEE SUPPORT TO NONPROFIT PRESENTERS WHO BOOK ARTISTS ON A CURATED ROSTER THAT CHANGES ANNUALLY.
Adam Kampe: BETSAYDA MACHADO IS AN AFRO-VENEZUELAN SINGER KNOWN AS “LA VOZ DE VENEZUELA,” THE VOICE OF VENEZUELA. SHE RADIATES JOY AND PAIN, OFTEN AT THE SAME TIME. SHE AND HER EXPLOSIVE BAND, PARRANDA EL CLAVO, CREATE A SOUND AS VIBRANT AS THE COLORS THEY WEAR ON STAGE. PARRANDA MEANS PARTY, AND IS A KIND OF MUSIC ROOTED IN COMMUNITY. MUSICIANS ROAM FROM TOWN TO TOWN SINGING ABOUT LIFE—THE GOOD AND THE BAD. EL CLAVO IS THE TOWN WHERE MOST OF THE BAND IS FROM AND LIVE. BETSAYDA AND JUAN’S LIVES INTERSECTED IN AN UNUSUAL WAY—THROUGH A THIRD PARTY’S INTEREST IN CREATING A SHOW ABOUT BOLEROS, A CENTURY OLD GENRE OF SLOW-TEMPO LATIN MUSIC AND DANCE. JUAN SOUKI.
Juan Souki: In Venezuela, there is this very important radio anchor called César Miguel Rondón. César is a dual-personality guy in the sense that he is the most famous radio anchor in the country, speaking from 6:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. nationwide, and he is a media celebrity, 3 million followers on Twitter, very, very a popular guy.
Radio ad for Cesar’s show.
So, on one end, he is a very popular radio anchor, very, very political, very smart, and then on the other hand, he is a Latin American and Caribbean music expert. And one day, I get this call from César, <drops voice> who is a guy who speaks like very low-tone voice. <resumes normal voice> Then I thought it was a friend actor kidding around, because it's a very famous voice. And he said, "I don't know if you know my "Book of Salsa." I want to put a show together." And we started working together. And the second show we did, he called and said, "I want to do a show on boleros and we have 7 days to put this show together and I want the singers to be really powerful. I want their voices to be really true, and I don't want them to be superstars. I want them to be true, true singers. I found a woman who was going to sing for the show, and she doesn't really sing boleros, but I think she should be there." And I remember being upset, because I said, "How dare they bring up a singer that is not a bolero singer for a 7-day rehearsal process." And I get there the first day of rehearsal and Betsayda was sitting there … in a public-official
tee shirt, like from the Ministry of Culture or Ministry of Humanities, and she started singing and it was the most powerful voice I have ever heard in my life. And the most impactful thing is that it really sounded like a voice from the earth.
Oh Santa Rosa – “El treinta de Agosto, voy a celebrar ….”
Betsayda Machado: Hola. Mi nombre es Betsayda Machado.
Hi. My name is Betsayda Machado. Estoy en este tour con la parranda de mi pueblo El Clavo. I'm on this tour with El Clavo, a group from my town.
Y este cuento de Juan es muy cómico, porque ya tenía referencia a mí, pero estaba que se jalaba en los pelos cuando César Miguel le dice que él tiene una cantante para hacer esta hora de teatro, que era yo la solista y le dicen que él tenía una cantante, pero la cantante que tiene no es cantante de bolero. <se ríe>
And this story of Juan's is very funny, because he knew of me, and he was pulling out his hair when César Miguel said to him that he knew a singer who could do an hour of theater, that I was the soloist and then they tell him that this singer is not a bolero singer. Y estaba Juan que se jalaba en los pelos como en decir no es posible que el maestro César Miguel Rondón, un hombre respetable y de tanta responsabilidad, me va a poner en este aprieto de ponerme a trabajar con una cantante que no sea cantante de bolero. <se ríe> And Juan was pulling his hair out thinking, “It can't be possible that Maestro César Miguel Rondón, a respectable man with so much responsibility, is going to make me work with a singer that is not a bolero singer.
Porque mi género, realmente siempre reconocida en Venezuela, ha sido la parranda, los tambores, este, de reconocimiento como bolerista viene a través de la propuesta con el maestro César Miguel Rondón y para el Volumen 2 de El libro de la salsa que le hizo.
Because my genre, in reality, has always been recognized in Venezuela, as the parranda..the drums. This recognition as bolerista came from Maestro César Miguel Rondón in Volume 2 of "El Libro de la Salsa" that he did.
Digamos que es un género musical, sí, un género musical que viene también de la Navidad, pero que el venezolano de por sí, la mayoría de la gente lo cataloga o de una vez dice es demasiado parrandero, porque sirve y el venezolano pudiera pasar todo el año haciendo fiestas, la hace. Let's say that it's a musical genre, yes, a musical genre popular during the Christmas holiday, but some Venezuelans could spend all year partying, and we do.
Pueblo de fiesta
JS: And we started touring a lot, that show, and I started asking, "Who are you? Why do you sing like this? Where do you come from?" "I come from this little village. My dad was a street musician, trumpet player, never recorded a song. We're 15 siblings. We all sing. We all dance." And I started saying, "Can we go? Can I go to the town? Can I come? Can I come?" And eventually in time, she invited me for a sancocho at her mama's house, and it was meant to be just like a one afternoon of eating sancocho and listening to parrandas. And then I got in touch with her universe and with this beautiful community, this very powerful music. And so, to summarize how it all ended, I basically discovered that they were playing together for over 30 years and never even performed together outside the village, because music in El Clavo is a way of life more than a way of business. So, we started documenting the El Clavo, Betsayda, Betsayda's family, and sharing these little videos and they went from playing nowhere ever outside the town to a Lincoln Center outdoors invitation. It did set the project in motion, and it's been, yeah, I would say probably the most meaningful project I've been involved with that deals with Venezuela.
Oh Santa Rosa intro
BM: Mi padre es trompetista. Well, my father is a trumpeter. En casa somos una familia numerosa. At home, we are a very large family. De Mamá y Papá somos 11 hermanos, 8 mujeres y 3 varones, y metiendo mis hermanos por parte de mi padre somos 15 hermanos. From Mom and Dad, we are 11 siblings, 8 women and 3 men, and including my siblings from my father, we are 15 siblings. Entonces, nada más la familia en casa, nada más hacemos una parranda solo empezando por el primero que era mi papá por ser trompetista, músico reconocido por toda la zona. So, just the family at home, we just make a parranda alone, starting with the first, who was my dad by being a trumpeter, a musician recognized throughout the region.
Tenemos una agrupación donde cantamos aguinaldo y éramos como la representación para salir a otros caseríos, a otros pueblos a competir, a llevar aguinaldo y parranda en diciembre. We had a group where we sang aguinaldo and we were the representatives that went to other villages, to other towns to compete, to bring aguinaldo and parranda to them in December. Y era la mascota, la más chiquita del grupo y, bueno, casi siempre arrasamos con los premios en las localidades cercana. And I was the “mascot,” the smallest of the group, and, well, almost always, we swept the awards in the nearby localities.
Por supuesto, siendo de El Clavo o de Barlovento, tenía los conocimientos de lo que pertenece al Estado Miranda. Of course, being from El Clavo, or from Barlovento, I had the knowledge of what belonged to Miranda State. Pero después que me gradué bachiller, después de que ya había sido Voz Liceísta …
Merengada y ron under
había ganado un premio como Voz Negra de Barlovento como en una festividad sobre el cacao que se hacían en Barlovento, me llevo a Caracas y me tropiezo con una institución que se llamaba Talleres de Cultura Popular de Fundación Bigott. But after getting my bachelor's, and winning Lyricist Voice, I won a prize as Black Voice of Barlovento, a festival about the cocoa that they used to make in Barlovento. I take off for Caracas and I stumble upon an institution that was called the Bigott Foundation Workshops of Popular Culture. Allí, la escuela como tal, hace reconocer la cantidad de géneros musicales, sobre todo a nivel afro, que existen en Venezuela. This school recognizes the various musical genres, especially at the Afro level, that exist in Venezuela.
AK: ARMED WITH NEW KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE, BETSAYDA ESTABLISHED HERSELF AS A SOLO ARTIST IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL. BUT SHE RETURNED TO BARLOVENTO TO EXPLORE AFRO-VENEZUELAN MUSIC WITH HER COMMUNITY IN EL CLAVO. THEY RECORDED A PULSATING ALBUM CALLED: LOE, LOA: RURAL RECORDINGS UNDER THE MANGO TREE. THE GENRE IS WIDELY KNOWN AS TAMBOR, WHICH MEANS DRUM. JUAN SOUKI.
Juan Souki: Afro-Venezuelan music is extremely powerful. I think it has to do with two different factors. The one factor that definitely got me hooked up is the fact that they do music as a way of living, in a moment where the arts market or the creative economy market is collapsed of overthinking about how through marketing and through media and through social networks, you make an artist visible and how do you make people like it.
So that is one factor. Then if you turn the coin onto the opposite face, it is very lively music, very high energy. It makes everybody dance. And it is very inclusive, you know?
Betsayda Machado: Nada transmitirlo mejor qué tenemos nosotros. Nothing conveys better what we have. Dar. Es precisamente esa energía, que sientan la fuerza que tenemos nosotros con este repertorio que simpleanamente de lo que sabemos hacer, que ha sido con lo que hemos creado.
It's precisely that energy, the strength we exude with this repertoire simply from what we know to do, which is what we’ve created.
Juan Souki: There is a really long story unexplored in Venezuela. In Venezuela, racial history and, more so, the music that goes along with it is something that is very often taken for granted, you know. It is the kind of music that you listen when you go to particular little towns on the coast. You'll see little groups playing tambores on the shore, and it was never given a place within our culture. We have this huge orchestra system in Venezuela, like known worldwide, with a very strong political meaning also that has changed from government to government, because it's been a government-related institution forever. And this institution that is really valuable in the sense that it has a social mission and that brings little kids the opportunity to join music and discover music and maybe even change like a gun for a violin, you know, which is beautiful, at the same time would sort of prohibit these genres. So, Venezuelan kids would be 5 years old and play Vivaldi and not know what Afro-Venezuelan music is.
Betsayda Machado: A pesar de tanto bombardeo de mucha música, en Venezuela pasa que un joven, sin tener el conocimiento de lo que es nuestras raíces, quiere fusionar y quiere hacer cosas de otras latitudes, que no tiene pero ni la idea del terreno que pisa. And despite so much bombardment of different music, in Venezuela it happens that a young person, without having the knowledge of what our roots are, wants to fuse and wants to do things from other areas, when they don't have the slightest idea of the land they walk on. Y eso es lo que nosotros estamos demostrando con nuestra música tradicional, con nuestra música con la que hemos creado. And that is what we are demonstrating with our traditional music, with our music with what we have created. Que la gente la reconozca y que la sienta su vida. May the people recognize it and feel their life.
Juan Souki: So, there is also a non-evident message in the music that makes it really powerful.
And I, as an outsider myself of that kind of music, and I didn't grow up in a community like El Clavo, I feel there is also a lot of pain in the music.
Our ancestors were brought here from Senegal, and landowners have mistaken us to be Loango slaves, the ones who go to Cuba who are 6.5 (feet) and really tough guys and physically built for hard work. We're not like this. So, we were wrongly forced into working the land and given sticks and machetes. And when the landlord would turn around, we would use the sticks to make noises and make sounds and sing and dance because we're not meant for hard land work. We are meant for talking. We are meant for singing. We are meant for enjoying the land we grew up in. And you want to know why we sing? We sing not to cry.
THAT WAS MUSICIAN BETSAYDA MACHADO AND PRODUCER, JUAN SOUKI. TO HEAR MORE FROM BETSAYDA UNTRANSLATED IN HER NATIVE SPANISH, CHECK OUT THE OTHER STORY IN THIS BLOG. JUST WANTED TO SAY A QUICK THANKS TO JUAN SOUKI AND BETSAYDA FOR SITTING DOWN WITH MYSELF AND GUIOMAR FOR THE INTERVIEW. AND KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR BETSAYDA MACHADO Y PARRANDA EL CLAVO’S TINY DESK CONCERT RECORDED THIS FALL AT NPR.
FOR THE NEA, I’M ADAM KAMPE.
Musica: All songs from the CD / todas las canciones del disco, Loe Loa: Rural Recordings Under the Mango Tree, played by / tocado por Betsaya Machado y Parranda el Clavo. Odelia Records.
La Situacion (written by / escrito por Youse Cardozo), Me Meo Juliana, Pueblo de Fiesta (written by / escrito por Oscar Ruiz), Oh Santa Rosa (written by / escrito por Oscar Ruiz), y Merengada e Ron.