By Jaime Ortega Carrascal
Bogota, Jul 14 (efe-epa).- Musicians in Colombia have taken entire orchestras onto the streets in a bid to make ends meet as the pandemic has paralyzed all conventional cultural activities with no imminent end in sight to restrictions.
What started as a fleeting economic alternative is beginning to look like a new business model as artists adapt to show business’ new normal, traditionally accustomed to large audiences and indoor performances.
Among those who flood the streets of Bogota with tunes is La 4K, a salsa orchestra of 11 Venezuelan musicians who two years ago began to make a name for themselves in Colombia but just as business was shaping up the pandemic forced them to rethink everything.
“Because of what is happening we had to go out on the streets as there is no work in the nightclubs, so we decided to do some street work to stay active and grow as an orchestra and not stay at home,” La 4K director Carlos Pacheco tells Efe.
Pacheco is one of 1.8 million Venezuelans who have settled in the central American country after fleeing from the crisis.
His intention was to travel to Ecuador but when he passed through the Colombian capital he decided to stay a month to enjoy the local music.
“It turns out that month has turned into two years,” he smiles.
At the weekends, the orchestra travels across different neighborhoods with their instruments and technical equipment in tow to create a makeshift stage on the sidewalks of residential areas where they are allowed to plug their equipment into the electrical network.
“We are doing these types of events and it has paid off, people really like what we do and that is why we continue while the world normalizes after what has happened,” says Pacheco, a native of Guatire in the state of Miranda.
With the stage set up, La 4K unleashes the party with salsa classics.
People, the majority of whom have been locked up in their homes since mid-March, revel as the music fills the streets.
They clap, break into improvised dances from their balconies and hurl money from their apartments as a sign of support and thanks.
“People really enjoy it very much, we bring a quite varied repertoire in terms of salsa, we have many classics, such as Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz, Héctor Lavoe, Grupo Niche, Joe Arroyo, Oscar D’León, the Great Combo,” says the director.
After performing songs like A Summer in New York, Cali Pachanguero, You Will Remember Me, or La Pantera Mambo, the orchestra performs an encore as neighbors chant “another, another, another” in unison.
Despite the fact that the stage is often a narrow sidewalk, the quality of the performance is outstanding.
But this band is no stranger to “emblematic salsa venues such as Quiebracanto, Galería Café Book, El Goce Pagano, Los Salsa Salsa Dura,” the director says, adding that the group was preparing to record an album before coronavirus struck.
Like Pacheco, other members of the orchestra also emigrated from Venezuela, which is steeped in a deep economic and social crisis, traveling from Zulia, Táchira, Falcon in north-western Venezuela, and Vargas in the northern state of Caracas.
They all converged in Bogota where their project has been met with great enthusiasm.
“I can tell you that it has been incredible how people accept us, the balconies have become dance floors”, says Pacheco.