Featuring seven members: Betsayda Machado, Blanca Castillo, Youse Cardozo her son, Oscar Ruiz, Adrian Gomez, Jose Gregorio Gomez, and Betsayda’s sister, Nereida Machado, this group hailing from the small Afro-Venezuelan town, El Clavo, are touring the world for the first time since 2017. This musical group are exposing the world to Venezuela’s song, percussion music and dance while reconnecting the Venezuelan diaspora to its homeland.
Betsayda originally operated as an independent singer based primarily in Caracas, yet in the past thirty years, she has formulated a band composed of close friends and family members. For over three decades, the group has been performing their music in local Venezuelan homes. Now they are credited with being the voice of the Venezuelan people. Performing with drums, maracas, and furros this group’s music is powerful and can shake a room.
Parranda is an Afro-Venezuelan genre based in group performance that can tell stories ranging from the glorification of saints to love and to the daily lives of people. The dance form involves moving one foot in front of the another resulting in the fact that during slavery, enslaved peoples feet were in shackles, causing one foot to move in front and behind the other in slow movement. Betsayda credits the sound and history of this group to mestizaje or the intercultural mixing between Spanish, African and Indigenous people that resulted from the colonization of Venezuela by the Spanish in 1498.
To this day, the coastal town that the group arrives from celebrates this musical Carnival musical tradition. In the 1970’s, trumpeter Ricardo Díaz augmented the local legacy of Afro-Caribbean drumming traditions with brass, electric bass, keyboard, and women’s chorus to create La Sardina de Naiguatá, the musical group that drives the town’s annual cycle of public celebrations, including Carnival, Corpus Christi, and St. John the Baptist.
Venezuela’s Caribbean coastal town of Naiguatá is home to one of that country’s most celebrated Carnival musical traditions. In the 1970’s, trumpeter Ricardo Díaz augmented the local legacy of Afro-Caribbean drumming traditions with brass, electric bass, keyboard, and women’s chorus to create La Sardina de Naiguatá, the musical group that drives the town’s annual cycle of public celebrations, including Carnival, Corpus Christi, and St. John the Baptist. These masterful performers of parranda music are living archives of Afro-Venezuelan and indigenous history. This group invites audiences to discover, indulge, and celebrate the contagious beats of Afro Venezuelan soul. The energizing percussion and vocal ensemble presents an engaging repertoire cultivated through centuries of African tradition and musical influence in Venezuela. Further, Parranda El Clavo has brought new attention to Venezuelan Afro-Soul genre: “Tambor”. Machado, credits her influences to other great Afro-descendant divas of Latinx and African music including Cuba’s Celia Cruz, Colombia’s Totó La Momposina and Cape Verde’s Cesaria Evora.
Parranda uses as number of rhythms, all featuring vocals, drums and percussion, “rapid-fire hand drums, lead vocals switch from singer to singer in an instant, while the backing vocalists create rich melodies, and hoots and squeals emanate from the musicians when the excitement boils over.”
The drums, call and response voices where leads change and anyone has the capacity to step in at any time take over. Performances like these are not just planned they are inspired in the moment. Anything is liable to happen. The group hopes to share a more comprehensive and positive image of the Venezuelan people and culture with the world.
See information on Duke’s upcoming performances with Parranda El Clavo here.
Ayanna Legros, Shakeel Harris, and Travis Knoll contributed to this post
Suggested Readings :
Barrio Rising : Urban Popular Politics and the Making of Modern Venezuela
Velasco, Alejandro (2015)
Cafe Con Leche : Race, Class and National Image in Venezuela
Wright, Winthrop (1990)
Kozloff, Nikolas (2006)
Radical Moves : Caribbean Migrants and the Politics of Race in the Jazz Age
Putnam, Laura (2013)
Pelo Malo (2014)
Works Cited :
Derek Beres, “Bordon Tramao: Joropos and Parrandas from Venezuela,” Sing Out!, vol 49, no 2 (2005): 138.