A New York City Spin on a Colombian Tradition

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Martin Verjano performs on a gaita, a traditional flute made in Colombia but with a New York City twist — the quills are from a park in the Bronx. hide caption

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La Cumbiamba eNeYe is a group of 12 Colombian musicians in New York City. They explore their grandparents' musical traditions, which they say can be just as alluring as the music of Cuba and Brazil.

The band's instrumentation is made up of guitars, saxophones, trumpets and percussion. Band leader Martin Verjano plays the gaita, a long flute with a mouthpiece made from a glop of beeswax mixed with ground charcoal.

Verjano's gaita is from a very small town on the country's Pacific coast. The town is so isolated that, to get to the musical elder who taught him how to play and make the ancient instrument, he had to fly to Bogota, then drive eight hours by car and finally get in a boat for another 12 hours.

But when Verjano ran out of the quills he brought with him, he put a New York City spin on tradition by making the quills out of materials from a park in the Bronx.

The musicians in this revival movement are trying to preserve authentic traditions of their country, but now there is a vibrant a musical exchange between New York and Colombia.



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