Guaco: “The Only Politics We Know Is To Bring People Joy”
As Christmas approaches, Venezuelans love to listen to "gaitas" at home. And listening to "gaitas" means listening to Guaco, a famous band from Maracaibo that started in the 60's as a traditional 'gaitas' band. Gaitas are folkloric songs played in Christmas with furrucos, charrascas and tamboras.
Today, Guaco continues to play Gaitas when they give concerts around Christmas, but the band has developed its own peculiar style - a mix of tropical sounds, salsa, pop, funk and urban rhythms - whose originality has been finally recognized internationally this year: last November, the band won a Latin Grammy for Best Contemporary Tropical Album.
"Guaco is an institution in Venezuela," explains David Escalante, a creative from Venezuela, 28,now living in Barcelona. David was looking forward for Guacos's concert in Barcelona. "Last year they came in July, It was funny, as many of us expect to listen to gaitas in Christmas", he said.
A few weeks after receiving the Grammy, Guaco began a short tour of Spain and the United States - Houston, Orlando and Miami - to the joy of the Venezuelan expatriate community. Especially for the thousands of immigrants who have been forced to flee the country in the past two years pushed by the complicated political and economic situation. This new Venezuelan Diaspora live with the uncertainty of not knowing when they will be able to return. It is a massive emigration: about two million people, mostly young, have left the country since Nicolas Maduro took power of the government.
We are here because of our struggle
Young or old, all Venezuelan expats knows who is Gustavo Aguado, the only remaining original member of the band. When he was asked how it is possible that a traditional band like Guaco could last for more than 40 years, without having gone out-fashioned, he answered: "Well the truth is that nobody understands it, hopefully it will perpetuate in time." Aguado was accompanied by three young musicians, with whom he has recorded "Guaco Histórico 2", the album awarded with a Latin Grammy. The four of them seemed enthusiast and good-humoured.
"We are happy to play in Barcelona, we feel very well accompanied here, among so many Venezuelans. The truth is that there are not too many differences between giving a concert in Venezuela, in Spain or in the USA: the Venezuelan audience behaves the same anywheres: impulsive, reverent, with feelings: that's how Venezuelans are, "says Aguado.
The Venezuelan keeps smiling, keeps dancing
"Como Sera", "Lo Eres Todo", "Eres Mas", "Pideme", "Si fuera tu bailo conmigo", "Las Caraquenas" …Their greatest hits continue to fill the concert halls both abroad and at home. "And that's meritorious, because despite of the critical situation in their country -Venezuela is immersed in a spiral of crisis, inflation and violence - the Venezuelan keeps smiling, keeps dancing," says the veteran musician. "That's why we are exactly here today: because of our struggle, our battle to establish a Venezuelan heritage, which has been going on for more than 50 years," he concludes.
In their last albums, Guaco has experimented with Hispanic rhythms, urban music, Pop flamenco. Little is left of the traditional “gaitas” they played in the 60s. "I never imagined that we would be able to live on this," admits Aguado.
Last October, the Venezuelan Super Band toured for a month in Japan, invited by a Japanese fan. A Japanese "guaquero", who paid for the expenses of the trip. "In Japan they sang our songs without knowing ni papa of Spanish" jokes the singer.
Looking ahead to next year, the group plans to launch a new album and to release a documentary film about the 50 year history of the band: “Semblanza”.
A Palliative for the Diaspora
"For Venezuelans in the diaspora, we are a kind of common denominator, we are a palliative," explains Gustavo. "And music works for that, right? To calm down the feelings, "says the singer, who does not like to talk about politics. "The only Politics I know is to bring people joy," he said.
Aguado prefer to keep real politics for politicians, for whom he has little respect, both nationals or from abroad. "The word Politics itself is an alteration of the truth, and that is a common thing worldwide. Otherwise, how do you understand that politics can lead a “batracio” like Trump to the presidency of the U.S? ", he said, blushing.
Although the musician admits that the situation in Venezuela is really critical,- "we are reaching the boiling point," he said- he avoids to openly criticize the regime of Nicolas Maduro, as other Venezuelan singers have done. For example, the duo Chino and Nacho, who have publicly lashed out against Maduro in several concerts and have claimed for his immediate resignation. "What we must do is to go to vote, always go to vote”, says Gustavo.
The word "Politics" itself is an alteration of the truth, and that is becoming common worldwide".
Experimenting with Pop and urban sounds has helped Guaco to keep trendy among young people and teeangers. "Music goes through a process of massification, you have to adapt to that process," says the musician, proud that Guaco is heard again in school playgrounds in his country.
In the next year the band has plans to expand in Latin America, especially in Mexico, a market they consider fundamental. But for now they have scheduled only three concerts in the States and a big new year’s eve concert back home, in Venezuela.
David and his friend, Cristina Bolivar, a journalist, can’t help to look at Aguado with admiration. They would love to spend Christmas and New Year’ Eve with their families back home in Caracas, but they will have to stay in Barcelona. No money to go back. Not safe. At least, though, they will attend Guaco's concert in Barcelona and through their music they will reconnect with their roots.
"I came to Barcelona alone, it was a total adventure," explains Cristina, 28, who arrived in Spain less than a year ago. She has a political asylum visa. In Caracas, Cristina worked as a political reporter for the newspaper 6to Poder, until the Maduro regime ordered its closure and confiscated all the assets. "The newspaper director is now in court," explains Cristina. "As you see, it is not the easiest thing to be a political journalist in Venezuela at the moment," she says.
Cristina has no relatives in Barcelona, but she had it very clear that she needed to flee the country, despite how expensive it was. “The inflation is mad, the insecurity is mad… all the situation is terrible”, she said, before standing up to take a photo of herself next to Aguado and the rest of the band.