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INTRODUCING NEW LATIN AMERICAN GENRES OF FOLK MUSIC, NEW GUITAR, AND NEW GROUPMUSE MUSICIAN TO THE BAY AREA AUDIENCE

Updated: 4 days ago



Bandola guitar maestro Alejo Cordero, new to the Bay Area just over two years ago from Colombia, South America, presented his first-ever Groupmuse performance at our home this past Saturday evening. He's pictured above with his wife, Julieth, and below with me after the concert. Fifteen folks, half new and half "historical" friends as L. called them, attended. Alejo was so well received by all that he willingly played at least 30 minutes longer than scheduled (most Groupmuse home concerts last for about an hour, and then we socialize!).


Part of his warm welcome by all to our cozy and pleasantly crowded venue, was due to his gracious, enthusiastic, and happy manner.


Alejo is obviously a technically accomplished musician in love with music of various genres and composers from Latin American countries, but is especially competent playing joropo musica llanera folk music from the eastern plains of Columbia which is also the national music of Venezuela. A llanero is the Colombian cowboy similar to the Argentine gaucho.


I learned about Alejo and his specialty only when I engaged his services to play background music during my November 2023 birthday dinner party I hosted for 25 guests, and play a 20-minute concert thereafter. Shortly after that party and at my suggestion, he applied and was accepted to become a musician on Groupmuse's roster of incredible musicians available to play concerts in small local venues.


Incidentally, there may be Groupmuse-hosted small venue concerts available to attend or host in your city, as they exist across the country. If not, perhaps you can contact them to see how to set up such a program in your city.


Expecting to hear principally Joropo style music, our guests were first treated to a few well-known Bach and other classical art pieces. Then I was thrilled again to hear him play one of my favorite pieces by Panamanian composer Carlos Eleta Almaran, "Historia de Amor." The principal melody of this piece can be heard in the American song, "Autumn Leaves."



Next we were introduced to the "porro" which he played in the above video taken at the concert, "El porro" by Gentil Montaña. The porro is a lively, sparkling Latin music with a dance style similar to the well-known cumbia, both from the Caribbean region of Columbia.


Alejo also played a cumbia medley composed of three pieces. Here and here are traditional cumbias from Colombia. I dare you to watch this YouTube video of a modern cumbia dance style from....Texas!... and not at least tap your foot, if not jump up to boogie. The cumbia (here is a detailed history of this dance) is undoubtedly my second favorite Latin dance of all (first is the rhumba because it is so sexy)! At the concert I could hardly keep from jumping up to dance a few steps of the cumbia as I did at my November birthday party pictured here:



The porro was popular in Colombia from the 40s-to 70s, then almost disappeared and came back in popularity in the 80s and 90s until the present. The social dance now has a central role in Colombian festivities and celebrations. It has a cumbia rhythm that developed into its own faster subgenre. You can see it danced by an adult and a young couple here. It was originally a folkloric expression from the Sinú River area that evolved into a ballroom dance.


Typical as an element of Groupmuse performances and as seen in the above video, Alejo took care to give us a brief introduction to each piece so we knew a bit about the composer, historical style, or specific piece he would next play. (To save space in the above video, I truncated his introductory remarks to the porro.)


After an hour of music, I suggested a small break to socialize and enjoy more munchies set out in our dining room, but upon guest requests, Alejo agreed to play for another, unscheduled 30 minutes! He ended with a special treat by playing a piece he composed, "Arrebol Cusianero." Once more all guests sat in rapt attention.


It is Alejo's stated dream over time to educate more and larger audiences to the infectious styles and variations of his country's folk and typical music. So Ron and I are already planning to invite Alejo to return later this year to play a program solely of joropo and cumbia music plus some of his own compositions. With that program we can move deeper into his specialty and styles that are not that familiar to the general non-Latin population in the US or Bay Area.


It is a certainty that Alejo is more than qualified to move forward the legacy of famous joropo specialist Coco Rojas with whom he played throughout Latin America for a number of years (video is taken before Alejo joined the band).


We love to help him expand his dream in America. We and Groupmuse are truly fortunate to have his company and talents now in the Bay Area! Bienvenidos Alejo and Julieth!


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PS Excuse me for getting a bit carried away with my love of most dance music, but if you want another six minute uplift in your day and a smile on your face, I hope you will love this video of six groomsmen and the groom entertaining his new bride, a dance video that I just revisited when I was searching for one on cumbia. Note how the bride finally succumbed to the marvelous provocation!)

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