The Colombian musical group, Semblanzas del Río Guapi transmits the power of the jungle with their music. Through their lyrics and rhythms, the music of the pacífico evokes emotions in those who listen to it. Their new musical work, “Voy pa’allá” (I’m headed that way) gathers all these cultural riches.
Among its outstanding singles is “Los Guansangú” by Discos Pacífico, a song produced by the renowned Iván Benavides and Diego Gómez, director of Discos Pacífico and Llorona Records. This album was recorded in the music studios of the Icesi University of Cali and mastered by Felipe López at Ondaselecta, tells Blu Radio.
Semblanzas del Río Guapi
Music Born from Generations Ago
“Traditional music has passed through generations in my family. We are a group of 11 young people in the Semblanza group. We have always enjoyed listening to our elders, learning from their experiences, and tapping into music that has never been heard before,” explains Yamile Cortez Vergara, the general director of Semblanzas del Río Guapi and one of the lead voices.
Her work has been extremely important to safeguarding cultural expressions through singing. Today, she spreads and protects ancestral knowledge, as her grandparents once did with her.
The people of the Pacific value heritage and tradition and Yamile has passed it own to her own young children, Shary and Ian, who can sing a currulao, play a bass drum, a cununo and even the marimba. The Cortés family continues to perpetuate a legacy that invites Colombians to love their land and embrace their ethnic roots.
Yamile is also a teacher, cultural manager and member of the management group, PES (Special Plan for the Safeguarding of marimba music and traditional songs from the South Pacific). “Professor Yami,” as she is affectionately known, has a great ability to compose music, as does Marbel, her sister.
In a documentary about the creation of each song, Yamile explains, “ideas flow to me when I’m cooking my coconut…. People here sing when they are cleaning, when they are cooking; they sing when they are washing clothes. Music is created on all stages. Our elders fought to preserve their music. They did not know the impact that music was going to have,” tells Yamile.
“Today, young groups have faith that music can preserve traditions and provide a way to live. We work to strengthen ourselves not only as musicians but also as people. We study it because we want to understand how the ecosystem of music works,” shares Yamile.
“It is important to tell the story of Semblanzas. Through music we want to ensure that our children will want to stay in their land…” describes the singer of Semblanzas.
Semblanzas del Río Guapi, values collectivity, teamwork, solidarity and brotherhood in music, personally, spiritually.
Diego Gómez, the director of Discos Pacífico, describes the uniqueness of the musical group, Semblanzas del Río Guapi “….they get into the heart of marimba music. The old bambucos, the jugas, the patacoré, the currulaos, the passion and the bunde, they are all collected in this album allowing the listener to feel and touch the soul of the Pacific, of Guapi and of Limones,” states Gómez.
“Voy pa’allá” is an album of 12 ancestry-inspired songs that talk about Guapi, the point where the waters of the river and the sea meet and sing loudly to be heard.
The musicians of the group Semblanzas del Río Guapi, live in Guapi (Cauca). Originally from rural areas, they are self-taught and inheritors of the sounds of their parents. The members of the group believe that art can contribute to forging peace and they work so that the next generations of the region will have more alternatives by the means of culture.
Since the beginning, they have worked in the community giving music lessons to children and young people in Guapi and in the town of Limones.
The talented group came together in 2009 from communities near the municipality:
“Hence the name of the band, (translated as, Portraits of Rio Guapi) because we come from nearby towns and municipalities of the region. We make music from the Pacific, but each community has a particular way of interpreting the instruments and singing, and because we are all from different places, we contribute to the group in different ways. That’s why there is variety. In the group there are four singers who play the guasá, and we also have marimba, bass drum and cununo. Some of our parents have always made music and we grew up with that tradition,” the group told Shock, a music magazine in one of their earlier interviews about Semblanza’s roots.
Semblanzas del Río Guapi was born in 2009 in honor of its river —the main artery and backbone of the territory. Their voices resound in the Guapireño jungle.
Listening to Yamilé, Marbel, Libia and Yessica is a journey through the calm waters of the river. It is connecting with the land they love.
For Semblanzas del Río Guapi music is everything: life, family, territory, fuel, and passion. It is also the greatest vehicle of transformation that exists.
In Guapi, music is a life saver.
“In the Colombian Pacific, everything is great: the dense jungle, the soul of music, the work of an ant. In this territory, the everyday acquires immeasurable dimensions. Every being matters, each one contributes. The song, Guasangú is based on a family of ants that work together to build their home. They know well that unity, integrity and brotherhood are strength. They are all for one and one for all,” describes Llorona Records, on the inspiration behind Semblanzas del Rio Guapi‘s song, Los Guasangú.
Soledad Quartucci | Latina Republic
Dr. Soledad Quartucci is the founder and CEO of Latina Republic, a 501(C)3 California-based nonprofit organization. Latina Republic is a reporting, research, advocacy and charitable organization advancing human rights in the Americas. We fill the void in coverage of urgent social, political, human rights, economic and gender inequalities affecting the Americas. Through our allies in Latin America, we highlight contributions, heritage, history, leadership and innovation. Latina Republic reports on stories that integrate local strategies to the betterment of the region. We make space for and empower unheard voices and celebrate the rich histories of Latin America.