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‘Chabuco:’ A Colombian Innovating Vallenato Music with Latin Jazz

Colombia is a country known for its salsa and vallenato. Vallenato is the folkloric, poetic music of its coast which its singer/songwriter Jose Dario Martinez Acosta, aka Chabuco, has been listening to since he was a child due to his father’s influence, the legendary guitarist Hugues Martinez. With his fourth solo album titled Encuentro, he mixes the sounds of vallenato from the Caribbean coast of Colombia, with jazz and bossa nova, resulting in a beautiful and unique sound of Latin Jazz.

This is an uncommon departure for the coastal music of Colombia. Usually, vallenato is a pure sound untouched by its performers until Carlos Vives, Fonseca and Fanny Lu began to add pop, rock and reggaeton arrangements to it. We catch up with the man in his native country of Colombia to discuss vallenato and its evolution as well as the global potential of the genre.

Why do you feel you need to give vallenato your own style? Why not keep it traditional the way Los Hermanos Zuletas and Jorge Oñate do to this day?
Well, I love the classic traditional Vallenato since those are my roots, but I like mixing it with the music that I listen to that I like. I like that they appreciate the lyrics and its narrative in the form of a bolero, jazz, bossa, as in this new album, “Encuentro”, but without losing its essence. I love trying to take it to other places. That is my style.

Why do you think Spanish-language radio stations don’t play vallenato on heavy rotation in the United States?
With the variety of musical proposals that exist today, they can’t play just one [vallenato]. Everything has changed, the digital format is another way to make your music known. So for me it is just that, that there is a lot of people creating music of every type of genre.

What do other artists think of vallenato?
Nowadays there are a lot of artists of this genre that are rescuing their roots. If they ask me, I would stay with the classic Vallenato, the one that tells stories, the one that you have to really listen to! That is my point of view.

Chabuco

What gave you the idea to do a Vallenato/Latin Jazz/Bossa nova album?
Basically, it is the journey of the music that I listen to, from what I have learned along the years and also trying to be different, that is art. In my case I have travelled with latin jazz in Clasicos Cafe La Bolsa, De Ida y Vuelta, that I did in Spain with flamenco rhythms, and now this one in Brazil which is a mix of bossa nova and jazz.

Tell me the story of how you, Alejandro Sanz and Vicente Garcia collaborated on this new
album?
Both are my friends, and the truth is that we share a lot of moments filled with music and laughter. Writing with Vicente was very enjoyable, as was singing with him. With Alejandro I had already done several things, in his album Sirope he invited me to sing with him, so I had this opportunity and I called him from Brazil and invited him to sing Ausencia with me. Without doubting it, he was very excited, I travelled to his studio in Miami and we sang it. It is a pleasure to listen to Alejandro singing the lyrics of my land.

What other artists do you want to collaborate with?
I have collaborated with many that I admire, such as my friend from Ketama, Antonio Carmona as well as Sole Gimenez from Presuntos Implicados, in her new album Hombres Sensibles, and with my ‘compadre’ Fonseca, and many more. I would love to sing one day with Ruben Blades, Jorge Drexler or Gilberto Santa Rosa, and many more that I admire.

Are there any other genres you want to perform such as bachata, rock, EDM?
I love a lot of genres, but what I do is take a bit of each one. I want to do a salsa album that includes the roots of my people, as I always do. I have a lot of encounters pending with a lot of genres.

What is a Chabuco concert like?
It is telling stories, singing and enjoying the musicians that I work with. It is organic, romantic and active. It is a journey through my music that people can’t stop singing to no matter what other rhythms they are accompanied with. I love singing for every type of audiences and in that moment, captivate them with what I do.

Chabuco will be performing in New York City, August 17th, 2018 at The Groove in Greenwich Village.

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