Vallenato

Vallenato is a traditional music style from Colombia that, should you spend any time here, you’re guaranteed to hear. Though it may take some time for your ear to adjust to it, Vallenato is an enjoyable style that makes a great accompaniment to any Colombian party since it goes down smoothly with a nice box of Aguardiente.

Literally the word translates to English as “born in the Valley”, as the music itself was first played by farmers from the Carribean Coast of Colombia. Vallenato has developed and morphed since (see Carlos Vives for the most famous example), but has a few distinct motifs that you will recognize.

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Vallenato InstrumentsVallenato Instruments

Three instruments traditionally make up a vallenato band. These are:

=> The guacharaca. The most recognizable instrument. A hollowed out piece of wood (or these days often metal) that is stroked with a stick to add percussion to the music.

=> The caja. A small drum made with cowskin and held between the knees and played with bare hands.

=> The accordion. Often accordions are custom made for Vallenato.

Colombians will often say Vallenato is the best representation of Colombian Culture with the accordion brought from Europe, the caja from Africa and the guacharaca representing the Indigenous Culture.

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Varieties of Vallenato

There are four main types of ‘beat’ that Vallenato music is played with. ‘Son’ and ‘Paseo’ are two Vallenato beats that have a 2/4 time. ‘Son’ has a more sorrowful and slower feel. Finally, ‘Puya’ and ‘Merengue’ are very similar styles, with ‘Puya’ being distinct mostly because of the length of its lyrics.

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Alejandro DuranIf you’re interested in Vallenato, be sure to check out Alejo Duran, Diomedes Díaz and Kaleth Morales. For modern Vallenato, Carlos Vives is unquestionably your man.

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