By Laia Mataix Gomez
San Jacinto, Colombia, Mar 21 (EFE).- With the Cumbia Route, the Colombian Culture Ministry set out to honor the musical genre that for centuries has been the soundtrack of daily life along the country’s Caribbean coast.
The route extends 1,300 km (800 mi) through 23 municipalities in the seven provinces that were the cradle of cumbia: a fusion of indigenous and African strains of music and dance shaped by the characteristic instrumentation of drums, pipes, and accordion.
“This project means a lot to us because it is the root and the essence of the Colombian cumbia that makes us proud, which we brought to the world. We are leaving to the children this beautiful tradition that our grandparents left to us,” Gabriel Torregrosa, director of one of the premier cumbia ensembles, Gaiteros de San Jacinto, told Efe.
A typical cumbia fiesta takes place outdoors, with couples’ dancing in a circle around the drummers and “gaiteros” (pipers).
Cumbia, Torregrosa said, is “makes you return to the roots, to the people, come to know our entire culture, the mountains, how people live.”
While all the musicians who founded Gaiteros de San Jacinto in 1954 have died, Torregrosa and his colleagues are preserving the legacy and handing it on to new generations.
At the age of 9, Sofia Landero is already an accomplished accordionist and dancer.
And though Sofia boasts of having taught herself the steps, inheritance also played a role, as she is part of the clan of cumbia legend Andres Landero (1931-2000).
Her father, Rober Landero, heads the Andres Landero Foundation and organizes the International Cumbia Foundation.
“It runs through our veins, we inherit it from maestro Landero, the king of cumbia, and now we teach the heirs,” Rober told Efe. “Cumbia is magic, it is the most beautiful thing God could bring to us.”
The pipe – the instrument par excellence of cumbia – is “indigenous, made from cactus with a wax head, with a duck feather, and it brings out the entire tradition that accompanies us always,” Torregrosa said. EFE