If you would like to find a country in the world that has plenty of traditions at this time of the year, that place is Venezuela. It is not just because of its Christmas dishes, holiday’s decoration, gatherings and festivities. In Venezuela you can hear types of music just for this time of the year. They are played during mid-November to the beginning of January. Thanks to its strategic zone and the influence of different cultures and races, festivities that started in the time of the Spanish Colony, has developed and continued until now. You are just able to experience them, if you are in Venezuela or at a Venezuelan Christmas party. Do not miss it!
They are a traditional type of music derived from the Spanish Villancicos (Christmas Carrols from Spain). People would walk along the streets and go from house to house serenating their neighbours. In exchange they will get homemade alcoholic drinks, similar to eggnog. There are different types of Aguinaldos, the religious that sing about the Catholic Church and baby Jesus; the festive ones and also the regional ones. The musical instruments used here are the Cuatro the Venezuelan guitar, maracas and drums. The most famous Aguinaldos are Niño Lindo, Cantemos-cantemos, Fuego al cañón, Mi burrito Sabanero, entre otros.
TUN TUN lyric – http://www.venezuela.ch/cancionero/tuntun.html
Another popular type of music in Venezuela that announces the arrival of Christmas is the well-known Gaitas. From Zulia state, in the North-west of Venezuela, Gaitas started as folk music to celebrate Catholic Saint Days (from the beginning of November till the beginning of February).
There are different styles of Gaitas. The most popular is the called Gaita de la Tambora. It has crossed the state and has reached the whole country. Born in the seventies, it is considered the most current rhythm of this musical genre. The famous band Gran Coquivacoa took it to the next level. The musical instruments we can find here are used in Salsa, such as piano, trumpet, congas, bongos, etc., as well as the Venezuelan traditional drums, cuatro and maracas. From the eighties, La Gaita de la Tambora had Afro-Caribbean musical influence and great Gaitas’ performers showed this music evolution. Check the Venezuelan bands Guaco, Maracaibo 15 and Melody Gaita.
La Parranda o el Parrandón.
It is a type of music derived from the Aguinaldos and the most quintessential festive rhythms of Christmas. It was born in the central states, Carabobo and Aragua, in June and July. Its lyrics are not just about Christmas, also they sing about daily life. Its musical instruments are cuatro, maracas and drums. Parrandas are presented the same way as the Aguinaldos; the Parranderos (the performers) will go and visit from house to house, playing their music.
The most well-known musical band is Un Solo Pueblo, from Aragua, a state in the Caribbean coast. They have interpreted the old Parranda lyrics, rescuing them and creating new repertoire. Their music can be listened in the whole country and internationally. Un Solo Pueblo has taken the Parrandas to an Afro-Caribbean style.
And you? What music do you play, listen and dance during these holidays?
by Carla Soto
Photo credit: Michael Zender