Afrovenezuelan Music
A rediscovered tradition
www.lameca.org

 

5. From invisibility to empowerment - Cultural resistance and afrocentricity

In the last few decades, one man has consistently been working to promote the cause of the Afro-Venezuelans and became their most important spokesman and leader: Jesús 'Chucho' Garcia (nicknamed “the African from Barlovento”).


(Audio 8 - “El Nieto Del Retorno”, Grupo Mina, Somos Mina)
The second song by Grupo Mina “El Nieto del Retorno” (The Grandchild of the Return) is a theme by Chucho García, and it ‘returns’ as a bonus track as well. Here Chucho only plays the thumb-piano and sings with a soft-spoken voice (very contrary to his more rethorical voice): ”I came back to you as the grandchild of memory / to shelter in your naked and tender breast / Muakaka koko ya kento....” The song was inspired by a trip to the Kongo in 1987; the first in situ confrontation with the roots of Afro-Venezuelan culture, the first “Salto al Atlantico” (the title of a 1989 documentary based on the experience of the return, which shows the intimate similarities between Afrovenezuelean and ‘African’ culture). Miguel Urbina also made the return trip in search of “nuestra africanía” – “our Africanness” and went to Senegal. Grupo Mina elaborates on the rhytmical affinities and family resemblances between African and Venezuelan - and Cuban - musical traditions.

 


Jesús 'Chucho' Garcia, advocate of the Afro-Venezuelans.

Chucho is a multifaceted personality; poet, militant, musician and also founder and director of the Fundación Afroamerica and editor of its magazine Africamerica. This foundation is at the centre of a whole socio-political movement, striving to empower Afro-Venezuelan men and women, revitalize their legacy, and establish international solidarity between Afro-Americans and Africans. He organised many meetings of “Afrodescendentes” congresses (like the one about the abolishment of slavery), published various books on Afro-Venezuelan history and identity, and produced recordings which document the regional variety of Afro-Venezuelan music, ”thus constituting the classics of Afro-Venezuelan music."

To the Afrocentric mind of Jesús Garcia, the source of much of the patrimony of Venezuela lies in Africa, and his mission to promote the cause of the Afro-Venezuelans has been received well nationally and internationally.

He has insistently denounced the situation of ‘neo-slavery’ in which the majority of blacks have had to survive and strives to bring progress to the black rural proletariat.

On another level he looks for ways to emancipate the movement from the “hegemonical Eurocentric discourse.” As the self-appointed leader (and apostle) of the Afro-Venezuelans, he has in time become an high profile actor on the national political scene. At first, he kept himself at a critical distance from the project of Chávez (which started in 1999 as a ill-defined 'socialist revolution'). Chávez champions the underpriviliged, and in due time Chucho became involved in this larger “Bolivarian process,” turning literally into one of its ambassadors. He now has the opportunity to balance the myths and realities about Africa in situ, as he became ambassador in Angola, part of a continent that is slowly being discovered by Latin America.

Dr. Bartolomé Duijsens
Fundación Interchange

 

Afrovenezuelan Music

1- Introduction
2- Historical background
3- The African contribution to Venezuelan musical culture – Afro-Venezuelan music
4- Musical instruments
5- From invisibility to empowerment – Cultural resistance and afrocentricity
6- New directions in Afro-Venezuelan music – From localised soundscape to world jazz
Musical examples
Sources

www.lameca.org
www.lameca.org