The music scene in Colombia is a diverse one, filled with genres such as Cumbia, Vallenato, Guabina, as well as Joropo. These different musical styles have played key roles in shaping the auditory landscape of the country, one of those being joropo. In an interview with Latina Republic, Ana Veydó, the leader of the Colombian joropo group, Cimarrón, discusses the group’s unique impact in the music scene within Colombia, as well as on the international stage.
The traditional joropo genre was rooted in Venezuela and later found its way to Colombia. A unique aspect of the genre is its blend of African, Indigenous, and European cultures that reflect the diversity of Venezuela and Colombia during the 18th century.
In Colombia, Joropo is known as “música llanera,” which means, “ music of the plains.” Joropo has numerous variants depending on the region and based on the way the song is structured, its rhythm, presentation of the harmonies, melodies, and the instruments that are used.
The llanero form of joropo is often recognized by the use of the harp, the cuatro, which is a small guitar with four strings, the contrabajo, which is an acoustic bass, and maracas, a type of rattle. Its lyrics and vocal composition also play a major role in distinguishing it from other music styles.
The lyrics are often based on everyday life situations, while the structure includes coplas, which are four verse stanzas, and décimas, ten verse stanzas. Pasaje llanero is known for being more lyrical and slower, while faster songs like, golpe llanero are distinctive for their harmonic cycles. Another common form of the music genre is contrapuento, which is identifiable through its vocal duets.
Much of the lyrical content is influenced by the landscapes of the regional areas, as well as the traditions and different lifestyles of the local communities. One of the remarkable aspects of a traditional joropo singer is their ability to take on songs that are fast and often accompanied with differently pitched vocals.
Ana Veydó, the lead singer of Cimarrón, tells Latina Republic about the resilience of the group, as Cimarrón has contended with numerous barriers to surpass expectations and stereotypes. Women musicians in the genre have encountered difficulties in this male dominated environment.
Veydó hails from a town called Otanche and comes from an agricultural family. She recalls,
“…My life was in the midst of the cattle. There was also coffee and sugarcane… so that was my space, where I grew up…it was all about the afternoons, about milking the cows, that’s what I did every day of my life.” These experiences allowed Veydó to relate to the music on a deeper level.
For Veydó, the joropo lyrics have fascinated her since her youth. Now as an artist, the joropo genre offers an avenue where all sorts of emotions are conveyed and felt, such as anger, happiness and sadness.
Veydó tells that the joropo genre continues to be a strongly machista environment. Women often feel that they have to defend their interest in the music. She explains,
“I think that in order for women to be accepted and to be a part of this genre, it was almost necessary to adopt a position almost of a man, from many aspects, from what is sung, and almost to the way they behave.”
She attributes the culture surrounding the joropo to the male dominated plains, the spaces where men have traditionally worked. This is something that Veydó says can feel limiting. However, she shares that this challenge has helped her reflect further on what it means to make this genre of music.
Veydó also speaks of the importance of celebrating Colombia’s diversity through music. Cimarrón is a reflection of the country’s rich heritage; the group is composed of Indigenous, Black, and in her case, Mestizo members. Many members of Cimarrón are young.
The band has found a growing audience in Colombia, especially among the younger population, which Veydó shares is a surprise, as joropo is often associated with the older generations. She says that they have seen a growing interest in the genre from the younger generation as Cimarrón introduces new perspectives and possibilities in a musical space that resonates with them.
The band has earned several awards and recognitions over the years. Veydó brings up how the band was nominated at the 2005 Grammys for best band, the best album in traditional music of the world. They also won the Best Latino Album award at the Independent Music Awards. Cimarrón was nominated in 2014 at the Luna Awards for Best Traditional Music Show. In 2019, the group was nominated at the Latino Grammys for Best Folkloric Album. In 2020, they won Best Band by the Online Magazine in the United Kingdom.
Cimarrón has achieved several major accomplishments over the years. Veydó details how the band performed at the BBC Maida Vale Studios, a studio where major performers have been, such as the Beatles, Coldplay, Amy Winehouse and Adele. She states that being able to record in the same studio as other great artists was a great opportunity for the group.
Cimarrón has performed internationally, and these opportunities have all played a role in bringing joropo to other parts of the world, where it was unknown before. This reflects on the initial goals Veydó had set for the group and their genre,
“We wanted to be in jazz rooms, in rooms where flamenco has been played, where classical music has been played. I think that was our goal, to put out good music at the same level as other globally known music genres.” Cimarrón set out to share the spirit of the Orinoquia region with global audiences,
“We were interested in showcasing more than one spirit or one identity. Through our music we wanted audiences to feel a whole region that is diverse, a region that is made up of distinct groups of people and distinct geographies.”
Covid-19 brought various changes for the band. With the pandemic’s international travel restrictions and limitations on live audience venues, Cimarrón turned their focus toward their music and on their next album.
To honor their harpist and founding member, Carlos Rojas, who passed away in January of 2020, the group held a live performance at the Meta River. They played their song, Orinoco, which became a viral sensation online. His role in the band was instrumental, as he was the one to originally create the name and worked on the lyrics.
Veydó shares that the meaning behind the band’s name, Cimarrón. The name traces back to the time of slavery in Colombia, when enslaved Africans would escape to the mountains, earning them the label of Cimarrones. The name was later used to connection to farm animals, namely pigs and later in reference to animals that escaped, becoming undomesticated beasts. With their music, Veydó expresses their goal to play their music on stages around the world and to take the joropo genre to the same level of greatness as other music genres.
On August 28, Cimarrón will be making their first public performance since the pandemic started. Their concert will be held at the Teatro Municipal Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in Bogotá, Colombia.
Apple Music https://music.apple.com/co/album/orin…
Official website: https://cimarroncolombia.com
Nohely Diaz is a graduate from California State University, Sacramento. During her education there, she majored in Government with a concentration in International Relations and doubled minored in Criminal Justice and Peace and Conflict Resolution. She is committed to bringing awareness to topics relating to human security and human rights. Her dedication to public service has allowed her to engage in several advocacy campaigns regarding human trafficking, labor exploitation, and Indigenous rights. In addition, she has served her community through census work. Nohely is now looking to continue pursuing justice and equity for others by starting Graduate school.