A Night of Afro-Venezuelan Music: Featuring Betsayda Machado & La Parranda El Clavo
By Kim Haas
Edited by Tina Machele Brown
Thursday evening, July 20, was a magical night. My parents and I had the good fortune of hosting an amazing group of musicians in a home concert. Joined by our friends and family, we welcomed Afro-Venezuelan singer Betsayda Machado and La Parranda El Clavo, a soulful group of performers who sing the histories of their Venezuelan town, its culture and the joy and pain of everyday life.
Without any electrical amplification, Betsayda Machado and La Parranda El Clavo, icons of Afro-Venezuelan music, gave a pure, warm, emotional and inspiring performance. From the heartache of losing a friend to gun violence to the glory of a Christmas Parranda (serenading neighbors house to house), the concert provided an intimate setting for sharing the rhythms and dances of Venezuela’s African descendant communities. (Click here to see Betsayda Machado in action.)
In between songs, during an informal “Question and Answer” period, Betsayda and the musicians provided additional historical and cultural context to the music.
When one of the guests asked how the drums were made, the group explained, through Juan Souki, their manager and translator, that one of the drums was made only on a full moon.
Another fascinating insight was that the tight, close movements made by the dancers with their feet is attributable to the steps of the enslaved Venezuelans, forebearers of the musicians.
Hailing from El Clavo in the Venezuelan region of Barlovento, Betsayda and the group’s roots run deeper than music, there are familial ties as well. Betsayda’s sister, Nereida Machado, sings in the chorus and Blanca Castillo, furruca player, is the mother of Youse Cardozo, songwriter and head percussionist.
The group of musicians have been performing together for more than 30 years. In Barlovento, music and performing is an integral part of the community. It binds and connects, strengthening the Afro-Venezuelan traditions from one generation to the next.
Often referred to as “The Voice of Venezuela”, Betsayda is charming and personable. She sings with joy and conviction. And, Betsayda has big goals for growing the group’s audience and sound beyond the borders of Venezuela. She cites musicians like Latin Grammy award winning singer Susana Baca, as a performer she admires. As an Afro-Peruvian, Susana Baca has elevated Afro-Peruvian music to international acclaim.
Betsayda Machado y La Parranda El Clavo began their United States tour in Montana in July 2017 and continue through August 2017. The musicians will return to the United States this fall for an additional tour. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing them in concert, please do so. They are kind, gracious, charming and hospitable.
A special thanks to Juan Souki, the group’s manager extraordinaire who makes everything seems so easy and photographer Conrad Louis-Charles whose photos and video marvelously captured the spirit of the evening. http://www.conradlouischarles.com
This unforgettable night would not have been possible without the support and love of my parents, Rosa and Spencer Lewis. My gratitude to them for opening their hearts and home for a memorable summer evening.