Colombian band Cimarrón makes 'joropo' more inclusive on album 'La Recia' The South American music joropo often deals with horses and cowboys. The Colombian band Cimarrón has made the genre more inclusive by adding Indigenous and Afro-Colombian themes and sounds.

Los Llanos are home to cowboys. Cimarrón's music complicates that image

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DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, HOST:

Joropo music comes from the border between Colombia and Venezuela, and it typically revolves around strong men who ride horses and live off the land there. But there's a musician, Ana Veydo, who wants to complicate that image.

ISABELLA GOMEZ SARMIENTO, BYLINE: If you ask someone about Los Llanos, the plains region shared across Venezuela and Colombia, they might talk to you about cowboys, or at least their modern-day equivalent - ranchers who ride horseback and herd cattle, and, yeah, they also play music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CABALLO VIEJO")

SIMON DIAZ: (Singing in Spanish).

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: That's "Caballo Viejo" - old horse - by Simon Diaz. He's one of the pioneers of joropo, a genre of traditional music often composed of the harp, maracas, bass drum and the Venezuelan cuatro, a guitar-like four-stringed instrument. But joropo is also mainly a genre by and about men.

ANA VEYDO: (Speaking Spanish).

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: That's Ana Veydo. She grew up listening to joropo in her hometown of Bogota, Colombia, and she says her outlook on the Orinoco region, it's just different. She grew up in el campo - in the fields - where joropo was a staple sound coming from Venezuelan radio stations. In 2000, she co-founded the band Cimarron with her creative partner, Carlos Cuco Rojas.

VEYDO: (Speaking Spanish).

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: She says la Orinoquia is a vibrant and diverse place, with roots that date far before joropo and its cowboys. But that diversity is not always highlighted in the music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AUTENTICA LLANERA")

CIMARRON: (Singing in Spanish).

VEYDO: (Speaking Spanish).

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: She says traditional joropo didn't really reflect the African and Indigenous traditions of the Orinoco. So Cimarron began adding those components to their sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: Notably, they brought a zapateador, a shoe stomper, on stage as part of their performance. The dance that goes along with joropo is an essential part of the music, but it's typically done with a partner. For Cimarron, Veydo says it was crucial to have the dancer alone performing as percussion.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

VEYDO: (Speaking Spanish).

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: Then came a Brazilian bass drum called the surdo, plus a Colombian drum from the coast and the Peruvian cajon - a box-shaped percussion instrument. Plus, they threw the use of deer horns, an Indigenous instrument, into the mix.

(SOUNDBITE OF CIMARRON SONG, "CIMARRONEANDO")

VEYDO: (Speaking Spanish).

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: All of this, she says, is part of an effort to play with the rich sonic legacy of their region, to represent the people who live and make music there better and more accurately. For two decades, Cimarron traveled the world, playing that sound on different stages. But in 2020, tragedy struck. Carlos Cuco Rojas, the co-founder of the band, Veydo's creative and romantic partner, passed away from COVID-19. It resulted in heartbreak and a new wave of challenges for Ana Veydo.

VEYDO: (Speaking Spanish).

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: The first, she says, was being left as a woman to direct a band of men on her own. It's one thing to take direction from a man, but another to demand respect and understanding as a woman in a leadership role, especially, she says, in a region that's still predominantly machista. But she also had to think about how to carry Cimarron's legacy forward in their new album, "La Recia," the tough woman.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VELORIO")

CIMARRON: (Singing in Spanish).

VEYDO: (Speaking Spanish).

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: She says recia is a quality that's usually attributed to men and used in the masculine. A man is recio because his voice is strong, because he tames horses. And she wanted to flip the script and instead use the album to show that there's no uniform experience to being a woman from los Llanos.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RECIA COMO EL ORINOCO")

CIMARRON: (Singing in Spanish).

VEYDO: (Speaking Spanish).

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: "La Recia," she says, is the search for women in the Orinoco to find and claim their own voices. Isabella Gomez Sarmiento, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RECIA COMO EL ORINOCO")

CIMARRON: (Singing in Spanish).

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