ARPATUR Colombia - harp tourism opportunity

Harplist friends and others,

If you have been following my ARPATUR adventures in Colombia, might you be interested in coming here with me, another time? I'm plotting an affordable 8 -10 day "adventure" tour focused on traditional harp music but also incorporating features of culture, history and sustainable agriculture. Budget: $1000 plus your airfare to Bogota.

Today, on day 34 I'm back in Bogota after 10 days in Arauca, a historic river and town, the cradle of traditional arpa llanera. The sheer numbers of harpists and harp students, of all ages, is astonishing.

In Arauca, I enjoyed impromptu music-making every day on the wide porch at Hotel Las Mercedes, as the guest of owners Luis and Milena Rodriguez. At least a dozen local singers and instrumentalists came to the porch on one or more occasions. I also took observed two private music schools, and took instruction from two excellent harpists and teachers, Nelson Acevedo (in an informal setting) and Milkon Garcia (accompanying a singer here).

While in Arauca, my hosts took me overnight to their farm, where they keep a stable of riding horses as well as cattle. Luis, a veterinarian and former professor, is writing a book on the history of horses since their introduction from Spain almost 600 years ago.

More important, perhaps: Luis is a wonderful singer, as demonstrated on the hotel porch and at an evening bonfire sing-along at the farm.

Earlier, in Bogota I had spent three weeks at Academia Llano y Joropo. Master harpist Hildo Ariel Aguirre Daza established this private music school more than 25 years ago. Here I received an intense introduction into the traditional method, entirely by ear. As I have previously described, students at all skill levels are present, practicing their lessons simultaneously. The teacher moves from one to the next, with short and precise instructions. Cacophonous, but very effective.

My tour would have two parts: in Bogota, a stay with Academia Llano y Joropo; in Arauca, field visits and a stay at Hotel Las Mercedes. Accommodations: simple and inexpensive. Music: a mix of regular folks who happen to make music, as well as professionals - harpists, singers, cuatristas, maraqueros. Shopping and various sight-seeing are optional.

I am planning a trip for sure in September, 2015, when Academia Llano y Joropo will sponsor the second "International Gathering of Harp Masters" (Encuentro Internacional "Maestros del Arpa"), at  Academia Llano y Joropo. However, I can customize a tour whenever you like, with at least 4 participants. (The first such gathering at Academia Llano y Joropo will be September 10-13, 2014, just weeks from now. If you want to go that soon, get in touch with me ASAP.)

I first discovered the harp, as a folk instrument, in Venezuela in 1991, on a field trip with West Virginia University's College of Agriculture. I started Harping for Harmony Foundation in 1995. The first ARPATUR was in 2005. By 2011, I had made five ARPATUR trips, alone or sometimes with a friend or relative as a companion. I tried to promote ARPATUR in Venezuela, but tourism there poses various difficulties. On the other hand, Colombia offers the same musical culture but with better circumstances for travelers. Tourism is a priority, conversion of currency is easy, credit and debit cards work, cell phones work, there is good transportation and security.

This is my first Colombian ARPATUR, and I hope not the last. If you are interested in making the trip, sooner or later, please let me know.