Music & Culture In Zapatoca

Our adventures in Zapatoca began as soon as we arrived. After hearing some of Jenny’s songs, our hosts Armando and Sonia organised a series of concerts, impromptu performances and jam sessions. Before we knew it, Jenny was a little musical celebrity in Zapatoca, even making hospital visits to play a few songs for a friend who was getting treatment for his injured finger.

The new friends, music and culture we found in Zapatoca made it one of the richest and most memorable experiences so far on this trip. Our hosts went out of their way to show us a good time. In addition to musical encounters, we got into the routine of checking out Sonia’s progress on her latest paintings after our morning hikes with Armando and their dog ‘EQ’.

After 10 days in Zapatoca, we left our new home with better perspective on what we want to get out of our trip, in particular, immersion in music and culture of the new places we visit.

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Jenny played for new ears upon our arrival, setting the stage for the rest of our stay.

Tambora Rejos Zapatoca

Tambora Rejos (Tentacle Drums) have been long been entertaining Zapatoca with their quirky mix of folkloric tambora, campesino and a dash of tongue in cheek. We had the pleasure of hanging out with them at the house of Reynaldo, a good friend of Armando and Sonia.

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Tambora Rejos mix their playful humour with traditional campesino and tambora sounds.

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… and then invited us to get involved…

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… maybe it wasn’t traditional tambora, but it was fun!

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The bandleader showed us a quijada de burro, a shaker handmade from the skull of a donkey whose teeth rattle around inside.

Reynaldo Style

Reynaldo’s house is filled with amazing folkloric musical instruments, paintings, artifacts and … an incredibly elaborate biblical nativity village!

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Reynaldo’s classic cruiser. With a bike this heavy, locking rim brakes are sufficient theft deterrent.

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Behold, a parallel universe of nativity scenes. This biblical metropolis has bubbling waterfalls, a fog machine on a little pond and a plethora of motorised Jesus reenactments.

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The lighting changes colour and brightness to similate day and night.

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It’s hard work being the big J!

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Jamming With The Zapas

Armando and Sonia invited a local four piece band over to the house for a little impromptu concert. They began by taking turns with Jenny, alternating traditional Andean songs with Jenny’s original songs. It then turned into a jam session when Jenny joined the band with some vocal improv!

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Armando and Sonia organised a private concert at their house, with a local band who were rehearsing for an upcoming concert.

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… which soon turned into a jam session when Jenny borrowed a guitar…

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Lyrics for one of our favourites, Soy (Caña), a well known caña bambuco, which describes what it means to be a proud Colombiano!

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I made a lentil soup which seemed to go down a hit for all the hungry musos.

We met a local percussionist and school teacher who invited us to come visit his school band rehearsal just for a laugh. Then he insisted I take over on the drums!

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I dusted off the drum sticks with a local school band who were rehearsing for a Christmas concert.

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It seemed like all of Zapatoca was attending the Saturday concert at the local college.

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We caught Sonia catching up on her Su-Do-Ku during the early part of the concert.

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The Tambora Boys did not disappoint. They had the whole audience smiling, especially with the gibberish English song.

Los Hermanos López

After the concert, we were ushered to a sort of ‘after party’, a private performance by the headline act: Los Hermanos López.

The López Bros have been playing together for 25 years. They are well known throughout Colombia and the winners of several awards including the 2011 National Award for Best Duet of Colombian Andean Music. Their repertoire fuses spicy Criollo humor, bambuco rhythms and traditional Andean sounds.

For many Colombianos, their music exemplifies the strength of the Colombian musical tradition. They come from the historical town of Charalá in the Santander Department, part of a large family of well-known traditional Colombian musicians and influenced by the Escuela Martinez.

Angelmiro Lopez: lead vocal and guitar (center)
Domingo Lopez: second vocal and Colombian tiple (left)

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We were treated to a private performance by Los Hermanos Lopez, well known throughout Colombia for their traditional bambuco rhythms and Andean sound.

She Paints The Town

Most of our mornings in Zapatoca began with a ritual bogotano hot chocolate. Shortly thereafter, Sonia would head out the door with her paint pots and brushes to continue painting the town. Over the past year, she has been transforming some otherwise boring electricity meter panels into works of art on the houses around Zapatoca. In each of her paintings, she aims to capture unique characteristics of each house’s inhabitants.

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We found Sonia putting the finishing touches on a new painting…

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… just a few more trinkets on the tree…

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… and finished!

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Sonia has left definitely left her mark on this particular street where nearly all the houses feature one of her paintings…

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… adding a special uniqueness to the already beautiful colonial buildings.

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… one of our favourites.

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There lives a copycat in Zapatoca who is painting electrical boxes in a similar style. This is not one of Sonia’s, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

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Not one of Sonia’s paintings, but a lovely example of the streets of Zapatoca.

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All of Sonia’s paintings are marked with her unique autograph.

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The music theme of Zapatoca continues…

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