A Brief History Of Venezuela’s Musical Boom

Venezuela was one of the richest countries in Latin America during the 60s and 70s, with a GDP per capita not far off the US. This prosperity, along with a stable democracy, was changing the dynamic of the country: migrants were coming in from Colombia, the Caribbean, Europe, North America; Venezuelans themselves were migrating to the cities in search of opportunities; and the middle-class became frequent flyers to the cities of abundance and culture up north, like Miami and New York.

This was reflected in the musical productions: you could find jazz, soul, funk, cumbia and multiple eclectic sounds emerging from across the music industry. During this time there was also a boom of record labels and pressing plants, marking it out as an important and innovative period for music in Venezuela.

Alongside a mix of music from this golden era, DJs and co-curators of the ‘Color de Trópico′ series El Drágon Criollo and El Palmas pick out five favourite tracks from important records of the time.

Color de Trópico Vol 2. is available now via El Palmas Music.

Hugo Blanco – Guajira Con Arpa

Hugo Blanco was one the most important artists from Venezuela, he had a massive hit called ‘Moliendo Café’ released in 1960. Hugo is credited with starting the playing style of the harp within dance music through the Orchid Rhythm, created by the interpreter himself, but he is also considered the precursor of ska and reggae rhythms in Venezuela in the mid-1980s.  The song ‘Guajira con arpa’ is a very special one and it is one the few ones that have this Boogaloo vibe — a truly timeless piece.

La Retreta Mayor – Zambo 

This is one the holy grails of the Venezuelan Latin jazz. This band recorded this track as part of the only album they made and right after that the band disappeared. They never got a chance to play live but definitely left a big legacy with their music. ‘Zambo’ could easily be a track from this era; it’s so well performed and you can hear the talent of all the musicians around that time.

Nelson Y Sus Estrellas – Maria La Bella

Nelson Y Sus Estrellas is one of the most important exponents of Venezuelan salsa. With a lot of albums and many many songs they helped to create the salsa sound of that moment. It was a movement which was mainly influenced by countries like Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Venezuela and New York, which is not a country but the place where this urban sound started to spread from to other parts of the world.

Mario Y Sus Diamantes – Santo Domingo

Mario Carniello is the band leader of Mario Y Sus Diamantes. This band specializes in Latin instrumental tunes, mainly a sound that is close to cumbia using his Hammond organ. There are also Boleros and some approach to Jazz and Son Cubano. Like we said before it’s a band which only makes instrumentals where the Hammond is always the protagonist.

Simon Diaz – Tonada Del Cabrestero

Simon Diaz is one of the most important champions of Venezuelan music together with Hugo Blanco. They also recorded many records together. The main instrument of Simon Diaz is El Cuatro, which is an instrument from the family of the guitar. Iin many of his songs el cuatro and his voice are the only elements used, but in such magnificent manner that it takes you to another level.

Color de Trópico Vol 2. is available now via El Palmas Music.

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