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Tiny Desk Primer: Betsayda Machado y Parranda El Clavo

betsayda machado

When Betsayda Machado y Parranda El Clavo begin to sing, their layered harmonies and richly textured percussion are so vibrant, they swirl around your heart, soul and body so joyfully, it's impossible to do anything but surrender and dance along.

Machado's Tiny Desk included captivating Afro-Venezuelan music that is rooted in the freedom songs of the village of El Clavo. Music is the native language of El Clavo, a village founded by escaped enslaved persons who fled to create secret communities in the cacao-growing region near the central coast of Venezuela. The people of El Clavo trace their roots back to Senegal, and every story and every celebration has songs that evolved over time in parties, parades and processions. There's even a particularly special song dedicated to Santa Rosa, saint of escaped enslaved persons.

La Parranda El Clavo is led and fronted by the regally charismatic , who credits as influences other great Afro-descendant divas of Latinx and African music including Cuba's Celia Cruz, Colombia's Totó La Momposina and Cape Verde's Cesaria Evora.

Other musicians who influenced Machado are less known outside of Venezuela. One of these is the great Afro-Venezuelan mezzo soprano Morella Muñoz, who was renowned both in the classical and folk circles of that land.

La Parranda El Clavo's beats also take cues from Belen Palacios, a singer and musician from the region who plays the quitiplás, a percussion instrument made from sections of bamboo, also played by members La Parranda El Clavo.

Machado honed her formidable vocal skills as a member of the highly renowned Vasallos del Sol ensemble, a large group of musicians supported at the time by the Fundación Bigott (Bigott Tobacco Company's foundation). Here you can catch a peek of Machado with Vasallos del Sol.

But the one influence Machado credits most highly in her music is her own father, the legendary Pedro Machado. Unfortunately, Pedro never recorded. But his melodies and rhythms, as well as those of Africans who created new lives in music and freedom, still live on in La Parranda El Clavo's vital music.

To check more music created by Betsayda Machado and La Parranda El Clavo, here's a playlist that includes songs by the ensemble as well as related musics from the African diaspora of Colombia, Ecuador and other lands.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.