Escalona, ​​the great vate of vallenato, lands on Netflix

Thirty years after its original premiere in Colombia, the platform re-releases ‘Escalona’, the biography in serial format of one of the greatest vallenato composers in history, friend for half life of García Márquez and one of those who accompanied him to Sweden to receive the Nobel.

One of the phrases that Gabriel García Márquez once used to describe ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ has been quoted in abundance: “It’s a 350-page vallenato & rdquor ;, He said. Beyond its ’boutade’ airs, the phrase was the culmination of the tribute that the Nobel had paid throughout his work to the quintessential music of the Colombian Caribbean, with continuous references that an imaginative reader could interpret as the suggestion of a soundtrack. Accordionists, guacharaqueros and typewriters from Colombia –That is, interpreters of the accordion, the guacharaca and the box, the sacred trinity of the vallenato– rejoiced at this description in musical key of the greatest work of literature in Spanish of the 20th century. For the obvious reasons, one, but also, because it assumed an unbeatable publicity for what was still a music from the provinces of a South American country with little international projection.

Gabo’s references included a fleeting allusion to the teacher Rafael Escalona in his most universal book. “The nephew of the bishop & rdquor ;, he called him, because in real life Escalona was the nephew of a famous bishop of Santa Marta. There is no wonder. Escalona was one of the vallenateros who accompanied the writer to Stockholm when he traveled there to receive the Nobel Prize, with the declared mission of transport a bit of the tropics to the Swedish capital (The chroniclers of the time highlighted the liqui liqui that García Márquez wore that day when he received the award from the king of Sweden, but the truth is that the garment was part of a whole, a broader strategy of, let’s say, tropical moving ). The friendship came from afar: two decades ago, in 1963, when he returned to Colombia after seven years of absence, García Márquez had asked Escalona a vallenata update in the form of a party. He recalled this in an article he published a few years later in ‘El Espectador’. It was titled ‘Valledupar, the party of the century’.

“One day in 1963, during the Cartagena film festival, I asked Rafael Escalona to bring me together the best vallenata music ensembles to hear everything that had been composed in the seven years that I had been outside of Colombia. Escalona, ​​who was already my friend for about 12 years before, He asked me to go to Aracataca the following Sunday, where he would lead the cream of the composers and performers of the most recent batches & rdquor ;. By then, the musician born in the small village of Patillal, near Valledupar, was already considered one of the best composers in the history of vallenato, but his fame was still pending to receive the definitive push. It happened much later, in the early 90’s, when the Caracol channel decided to finance a soap opera about his life. ‘Escalona’, it was called. A young Carlos Vives assumed the leading role, in what would come to indicate the path that his musical career would take from then on.

With a ‘delay’ of three decades, Netflix has just released the telenovela, today called a series, and the vallenateros of Colombia are so happy like when García Márquez compared his great novel to a vallenato. “All of us who have fought for the dissemination of vallenato are very satisfied & rdquor ;, he says Alberto ‘Beto’ Murgas, Vallenato composer and director of the Accordion Museum from Valledupar (in case it has not been clear, world capital of vallenato). “I think that it universalizes us, I think that the work that Carlos Vives did at the time, for example, continues, which is summarized, in my opinion, in showing the world how we are & rdquor ;. Match him Félix Carrillo Hinojosa, Vallenato journalist and composer, that he says that he will allow “the new generations who know nothing about him to meet Escalona & rdquor ;. “The fact that Netflix releases the series puts Escalona in this time, brings him to the 21st century.”

It is said – wrongly, as Gabo himself emphasizes in his article – that that summit was the germ of the Vallenata Legend Festival, that since 1968 takes place every year in Valledupar (probably one of the largest festivals in Colombia). What is certain is that Escalona was part of the founding nucleus, which only adds to its legend. The teacher of Patillal, the cultural manager Consuelo Araújo and the then governor of the Cesar department –and ultimately the president of Colombia– Alfonso López Michelsen did more than launch the quintessential event of the genre. According to Murgas, “they were the ones who established the four airs that were to identify vallenato, namely, paseo, son, puya and merengue. The festival not only gave it the prominence it deserved, it established the way & rdquor; should be played. The quote establishes a canon each year raising a Vallenato King and every five to a King of Kings. There is no party that can be compared.

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“For me & rdquor ;, says Carrillo,“ Escalona, ​​more than a composer, was essentially an author. In my lectures I usually refer to it as the Cervantes del vallenato & rdquor ;. The teacher whose life he brought to the small screen Sergio Cabrera (‘The snail’s strategy’) died in 2009, leaving behind him a trail of timeless songs that still take pleasure in making interpreters of all kinds their own. ‘The house in the air’, for example, one of his most famous. ‘Honda injured’, ‘La Maye,’ The Brazilian ‘,’ Admiral Padilla ‘, ‘The custody of Badillo’, ‘The testament’. All are part of the soundtrack of the series and surely of this article. Alberto Murgas, who was a friend of his, ended up singing a piece on the phone to explain the story of ‘injured Honda’.

A parranda vallenata is in essence a musical contest in which sung verses are exchanged with the accompaniment of an accordion. According to legend, there was a character, Francisco Moscote, better known as Francisco el Hombre, who traveled the Caribbean provinces singing with his accordion until one day he was challenged by the devil. Moscote, to defeat him, interpreted the Creed backwards and the devil fled. It is the founding myth. All music has its own.

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