Venezuelan musicians Betsayda Machado y La Parranda El Clavo will bring a world-music experience on Aug. 31 at the Skirball Cultural Center in L.A for free. The group is known for their Venezuelan afro-soul music genre. Unlike Joropo–Venezuela’s most typical music that uses string instruments–Betsayda’s music focuses on the use of percussion instruments. The group is also celebrating 30 years of trajectory and the debut of their first album.
The name of the group comes from Betsayda’s hometown in Venezuela known as El Clavo located in the region of Barlovento. She comes from a large family composed of fifteen siblings and a father who dedicated his life to music, specifically playing the trumpet.
Betsayda belongs to another music group known as Vasallos de Venezuela. She has been a member of the group for 23 years.
“I owe most of my leadership in La Parranda to [Vasallos].” Betsayda said. “They have become like brothers because we have been working for so long.”
She was also part of another ensemble that performed folkloric music and it was where she encountered art and theatre director Juan Suki. Together they have expanded the reach of La Parranda to places like Canada and The United States.
Recording the first songs
“[Suki and I] wanted to do the album with the people of El Clavo.” Betsayda said.
In other words, the album was a “rural recording.” Two sound engineers were brought on board with microphones and other recording devices along with a few power generators because electricity would go out constantly.
Once this process was done Suki took the recordings and mixed them in a professional studio for a higher quality product. A few songs are currently available on her website.
“The album is almost ready and it will be self-titled but it could also be called La Parranda Primero de enero.” Betsayda said.
“Primero de enero” translates to first of January which is the day for the biggest celebration or biggest “parranda” of Betsayda’s hometown.
Experiences of the Tour
Betsayda is glad that the ‘afro’ repertoire of Venezuela is being well-received in other parts of the world. It is also a good feeling to know she is able to travel the world with both the people and the culture she was raised with.
In addition to the performances, the group plans to release a documentary that shows her experiences as they tour North America as well as the rural recordings that took place in her native country.
The group was looking forward to leaving Venezuela momentarily due to the political turmoil in the country.
“We were able to breathe new fresh air” Betsayda said.
Nevertheless, the United States is also facing political turmoil to which she also expressed some concern. She worries about the disappearance of the arts or world-music festivals but it also gives her and the group necessary strength to keep making music.
What is ‘Parranda?’
Parranda literally translates to spree. In most of Latin America, it is a word used to refer to a huge party–a more accurate translation.
[Parranda] is a celebration. It’s being able to celebrate with friends and family about special events,” Bestayda said.
The mission of Betsayda y La Parranda is to bring that spirit of celebration wherever they perform
That spirit is reflected in their concerts. Betsayda tends to lead and unify the crowd with dancing or as she calls it, ‘a tambor-therapy.’
Betsayda and her Parranda will perform at the last concert of The Sunset Concert series at the Skirball Cultural Center.