Francisco ‚Pacho' Rada
Pacho Rada was born on May 11th 1907 in Las Mulas, on the great Magdalena river. European ships from have travelled along the river since the mid-19th century and this is where Pacho's father bought an accordion from German sailors, becoming one of Columbia's first accordionists.
At a party in a village nearby, young Pacho picked up his father's accordion while no-one was looking. After trying out a few notes he produced a recognisable rendition of the melody of "La Chencha", a tune still familiar today. His father embraced him joyfully and a few days later he was given his first accordion.
Pacho Rada was one of the first troubadours to travel around the country playing unaccompanied, with just his voice and the accordion, bearing news and making music wherever someone had something to celebrate. He dreamt up hundreds of new songs on his travels, many of which have become classics.
He is known as the man who invented "son", one of the four Vallenato rhythms. However, Pacho was already too old by the time that musicians could get rich playing Vallenato music, when it became popular outside the province due to the marihuana boom in the seventies. At the age of 72 he became homeless once again.
His children helped him to put up a simple house on the outskirts of Santa Maria, where he still lives.
Pacho Rada has 422 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. Women loved the young musician, but their parents despised him.
Pacho "Who would have wanted a penniless son-in-law, especially if he travelled around like a vagabond and spent his days enjoying music, rum and women. But they couldn't do a thing about it. Who can stop a woman in love?"
Alfredo de Jesús Gutiérrez was born on April 17th 1944 in Paloquemao, Sucre. His work as a song-writer and composer gave a boost to the position of folk music in his country. He ranks among the country's greatest musicians, thrice crowned Vallenato King, having won the competition and been voted best accordionist at the Vallenato festival held every year in Valledupar.
It was Alfredo Gutiérrez who first won international renown for his country's music in the eighties. In the sixties he set up the legendary group "Los Corraleros de Majagual" with Calixto Ochoa and Daniel Montes, creating an international big band sound by adding electrical guitar, bass and a wind section to the traditional instruments. Over the decades Alfredo Gutiérrez honed and perfected the big band concept and has performed with his well-rehearsed team in the USA and Europe, as well as throughout Latin America.
Rada Oviedo and Rafael Valencia
Manuel Rada is Pacho Rada's youngest son. He travels around the country just like his father used to, together with his cousin, Rafael Valencia, living on whatever he can earn here and there for performing. There are no records of his music, he doesn't appear on television but plays at parties and other festive occasions or throws an ad-hoc concert in his neighbourhood when the mood takes him.
While the means of transport that carry him may have changed since Pacho Rada's day, Manuel has remained true to his father's music. He plays traditional Vallenato music, with the European accordion accompanied only by the Indian guacharaca and the African caja drum. He composes original songs narrating episodes from his life.
Romero and José ‚Morre' Romero
Israel Romero is the accordionist with the most successful Vallenato pop-band "BINOMINO DE ORO" and is also one of its founders. The band, which he set up with singer Rafael Orozco in 1976, soon began to perform with two accordions, choristers, synthesisers and electrical guitars. They produced a series of platinum hits after another and appeared in huge sports stadiums with their top-notch show. In 1993 the group's singer, Rafael Orozco, was killed in a mafia shooting, having become embroiled in illegal deals with them. Since then Israel has lead the band on his own.
Binomino de Oro's music is so highly adorned with arrangements and special effects that it can be hard to catch a glimpse of the work of the two master accordionists. However, in the film Israel Romero meets his nephew "El Morre" Romero in Villanueva (Guajira), right where his musical roots lie. In his grandparent's house, home to a whole family of accordionists, Israel Romero engages in an accordion duel with his nephew, revealing the full gamut of their skill..
Jamarillo, ‚Perro Negro'
Antonio Jamarillo lives in Aracataca, birthplace of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He is Aracataca's carpenter and is also reputed to have links with the devil, for all women succumb to his charms. He only plays music for the fun of it, with a bottle of rum always by his side. His melodies for two guitars have their roots in Cuba. There was an influx of Cuban migrant workers in Columbia in the thirties, and they brought Cuban son with them. That in turn became the basis underpinning Columbian son.