Classical music in Colombia

So you might ask: is there a good scene for classical music in Colombia? since, well, a colombian is following the Rattle…

Classical music in my country is still a very young thing  and not a very popular one. However there are a lot of orchestras and there is the Fundación Batuta, that seeks to promote music in many small towns and big cities with this slogan: the child that picks up a musical instrument, will never pick up a gun… oh yes, they want to get to all the children, but there is special atention to children and teenagers that live in extreme poverty and that have been traumatized by our violent conflict. Many people have contributed to this effort, even famous colombian painter Fernando Botero, who donated a good amount of musical instruments to the Batuta Orchestra in Medellín, my hometown -and his…

The orchestras here work very hard and try to get as much support as they can. They do have educational concerts for children that include a close contact with instruments and the musicians and they get to go the Theater where the orchestras work. In Medellín, the Orquesta Filarmónica always has this kind of program in their season and they also perform in public places, like shopping malls and the Jardín Botánico -a beautiful place- .

Here is an example of one those programs:

You see, we colombians loooooooooooove music, it makes part of our tradition. Every colombian can sing or carry a tune, almost every colombian can play a guitar or tiple -even without knowing how to read a single music note- and of course, every colombian can dance; to us, if you are dancing, that means that you are “feeling” the music…

But with classical music there has been a HUGE missunderstanding. Orchestras here began in the XIXth century with the purpose to “civilize” people and it seems that they didn’t have in mind the popular musical tradition. So, orchestras and their work have been like on the side for many people in Colombia, and their importance to our culture has not been taken very seriously.To many citizens, they are like a club where you go to congratulate yourself for your fine taste… and to others, the music that they play is just boring. And they do not have the publicity that they deserve, though in the last decade this has improved a little… the funny thing is that, when the orchestras play in public free concerts, like in small town squares or parks, passers by stop to listen to them play…

This is the Orquesta Filarmónica de Medellín, playing Berlioz:

Colombian orchestras are very versatile: their repertoire is not only made out of the european classical canon, they include contemporary (european, american, southamerican) music and of course, they play traditional colombian music -cumbias, bambucos, mapalés, you name it. Even rock. Here, listen to the Orquesta Filarmónica de Bogotá play a cumbia: El Pescador:

So classical music does have a place in Colombia, a very important one, though not made very public -drugs, paramilitar and guerrilla violence sell more newspapers, right?. Through music lives are being saved and changed, for these children are the survivors of a monster size conflict that has killed many generations of colombians. Music brings us together, it’s not just pretty rethorics. It happens for real. And as a professional option, it has gained a lot of respect; to many, musical studies are not a waste of time anymore, they are as meaningful and respecful as engineering or medicine, two of Colombia’s favorite jobs. And that is another great change.

Do we need more? of course we do. Through the last goverments, national and local, culture has been taken as a very important tool to heal society and to create a more effective form of citenship. But there is a lot to be done, more projects have to be supported that will enable joint forces, that can bring together all cultural ventures -dance, painting, theater, folk culture- and build something powerful.

So you see, there is a space for classical music in my country… no wonder I’m following the Rattle, right?


About alejandra179

Soy una historiadora melómana, viviendo mucho y ahora que empiezo los 30, relanzandome al océano de la vida... hay que nadar o hundirse.. I am a melomaniac historian, who is living a lot and now that I begin my 30's, I'm re-diving into the ocean of life..swim or sink...
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One Response to Classical music in Colombia

  1. Susan Brown says:

    Although classical music in Colombia may not be considered ‘world class’ by other music lovers, it has a long and honorable history. The ‘filarmónica’ conducted by Olav Rootes brought music to thousands in the ‘fifties. Before that, there were the ‘Amigos de la música’, who were instrumental in bringing international stars to Bogotá, including performers from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, such as Jan Peerce, and performing many concerts and operas in the city. If the Teatro Colón could speak, it would tell of a star-studded history of performances of opera, ballet, soloists, and famous concert artists.

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