Joropo and Arpa Llanera: Traditional Harp Music of Venezuela

Joropo is the traditional harp music and the associated song, dance, and folklore in Venezuela and Colombia. Many examples can be found with a search for arpa llanera on youtube. Here are pasted some links to harpists I have encountered on my journey of discovery. These links are a mix, including my own field videorecordings and other favorites. They are mostly impromptu, not polished performances. They include slow, simple exercises that I hope will inspire others to stretch their own technique and repertoire. My own teacher is Jose Gregorio "Goyo" Lopez, of Barinas, Venezuela.

(check back for more video links to field recordings in Venezuela)

2011 - Here, instead of harp, bandola takes the lead (Stalin Novoa) with cuatro (Lorelvis Piñero) and maracas (Adolfo Cardozo):

2009 - A scene from harp school at Casa de la Cultura, Barinas, Venezuela:

The following seis por derecho by Omar Moreno Gil clearly demonstrates a number of the limitless variations:

Here's Catrin Finch, renowned pedal harpist, tracing the history of harp in Venezuela:

Here is a fine performance by Goyo Lopez of the traditional Pajarillo, from youtube. This is NOT a field recording:

Here are a couple of simpler exercises by my teacher, Goyo Lopez, videorecorded in November, 2009:


Here is a surprise, Lorelvis Piñero Jimenez, of Barinas, Venezuela. Her impromptu performance in the park illustrates first a "pasaje" and a "seis por derecho." Recorded in 2009, she is by far the strongest female harpist I have met in the joropo tradition, but she is not a professional musician:


Omar Moreno Gil, now retired from teaching harp at the Casa de la Cultura in Barinas, was a nationally famous harpist and singer during the era of audio recordings. Recorded in his home in 2008 and 2009, I find these performances to be very helpful in developing my own technique:


In March, 2008, ARPATUR met harpist Lorenzo Perez in El Baul, Estado Cojedes. Here he is accompanied Adolfo Cardozo on maracas, and by Caraqueño Fernando Guerrero on cuatro (Fernando plays pedal harp at home).


During ARPATUR in 2006, John Kovac videorecorded harpist Aurelio "Longo" Rodriguez at Caney del Arpa, a rustic nightclub in Guanare, Venezuela. The typical accompaniment for the harp includes cuatro (a small guitar) and maracas.  (Note: this particular performance is inaccurately labeled "seis por derecho", this was before we knew the difference.)

Here, Fernando Guerrero, a classical harpist in Caracas, performs a seis por derecho, on his pedal harp, slowed down for the benefit of those interested in learning the form. Fernando is author of a book entitled El Arpa en Venezuela (The Harp in Venezuela). He is devoted to promoting a crossover between Venezuelan traditional and classical. (video courtesy John Kovac):


March, 2007. Jesus Garcia, age 17 at the time, performs El Merecure, a tune that he learned as a beginner in his first year.


More about joropo and arpa llanera:

Joropo is traditional in the southern and eastern plains (llanos) and parts of the central highlands. It is not traditional in the Andes. Southern joropo (centered on the state of Apure and neighboring Colombia) employs the arpa llanera. The eastern region uses mandolin as well as harp. The central region uses a distinctive harp which is strung with wire in the upper register; this is known as arpa mirandina, arpa tuyera, or arpa central (referring to the state of Miranda, the Tuy river valley, or the general geographic location).