Live, Local, and Acoustic Folk Harp music of Latin America

There is no musical experience that matches the live, the acoustic, up close, in the field or in small venues. Harping for Harmony Foundation aims to support efforts everywhere to present authentic Latin American traditional harpists to new audiences, outside and within the region.

At caney del arpa, guanare, venezuela, 2006

At caney del arpa, guanare, venezuela, 2006

Travel in these countries is the best way to appreciate these musical traditions, but that is just not feasible for everyone. Contact me, jl@harpingforharmony.org, if you are interested in musical adventure travel in Latin America.

Fortunately, we now have very wide access to these traditions through recorded audio and video. Some are published at places like Youtube, or on many thousands of commercial CD's. There are also unknown volumes of yet-unpublished field recordings, of mixed quality, stored  here and there on personal recording devices (including some of my own - JL).

Distinctive and strong harp traditions are found in three regions: Paraguay (arpa paraguaya); Mexico (arpa jarocha) and the plains of Colombia and Venezuela (arpa llanera). Search for yourself, or browse below for links to some particular performers.

(The links selected below are slanted toward musicians I have known personally and/or who have been or might yet be available for events in North America. There are thousands more. Search for yourself online! If you are a harpist wishing to learn Latin technique, check my page for harpists. - JL) 

Paraguay - arpa paraguaya

My earliest inspiration came from audio and video cassettes by Alfredo Rolando Ortiz, and from finding a friend and collaborator with a similar devotion, John Kovac of Front Royal, Virginia.

Nicolas Carter:Tren Lechero  - "milk train" - the ultimate train song!

Pedro Gaona and Silvio Solis: Cascada - waterfall

Alfredo Rolando Ortiz: Iguazu - original composition, named for the falls in Paraguay. Ortiz has performed and taught widely in the US for more than 30 years, the best-known harpist from this tradition.

Pedro Gaona teaches us a simple tune: La Virgen del Campo, at workshop in Front Royal, VA, sponsored in part by Harping for Harmony Foundation.

Nicolas Carter interview by local reporter Eric Tomlinson, at workshop in Morgantown, WV, sponsored in part by Harping for Harmony Foundation and American Harp Society.

Mexico - arpa jarocha

This harp style comes from the gulf coast of Mexico, and is part of the musical tradition called son jarocho. I was privileged to hear Jose Gutierrez y los Hermanos Ochoa, when they performed in Elkins, WV. In the US, this is probably the next-best-known Latin American folk style after the Paraguayan.

Octavio Vega, El Siquisiri ... solo harp instrumental

Tlen Huicani, La Petenera ... harp, voices and accompaniment, praising the woman from Petén ... Siquisiri

La Bruja - "The Witch" - a classic song, lyrics say "How beautiful it is to fly at three o'clock in the morning." There are many versions ...

La Bruja as sung by Lila Downs ... 

by Eugenia Leon with Lila Downs ... duet harmony, uses paraguayan harp and piano

by Jose Gutierrez y los Hermanos Ochoa - a full combo in full folk style, son jarocho

Colombia and Venezuela - arpa llanera

Probably the least-known in the US, arpa llanera is my own chosen specialty. Broad musical categories are tonada, joropo, and pasaje, often mixed or elaborated, with singers or solo instrumental. I have spent weeks in the field, with Jose Gregorio Lopez in Venezuela, with Hildo Ariel Aguirre Daza in Bogotá, Colombia, with Milkon Garcia and Nelson Acevedo in Arauca, Colombia, and with various others.

Hildo Ariel Aguirre Daza, Bajo un Cielo Azul ... master harpist, teacher, and founder of  Academia Llano y Joropo, in Bogotá, Colombia. This is tonada.

Rene Devia, Cuando el Llano Despierta, Colombian residing in Texas. This is joropo, much elaborated. Note, at about 2:10 how he uses his left hand to get accidentals, with fingernails at the soundboard.

Jose Gregorio (Goyo) Lopez, Pajarillo, - resident of Barinas, Venezuela. This is elaborate  joropo.

Milkon Garcia, Huequitos en la Pared, accompanying singer Antonio Bovelo, typical pasaje

Nelson Acevedo, Diamantes - one of two dozen traditional joropo forms

Nicolas Castañeda, Quinta Anauco ... student of Hildo Ariel, 25, now studying in Boston at Berklee School of Music

Grupo Herencias Joropo - harpist Sergio Nicolas Aguirre is 16-year-old son of Hildo Ariel, other musicians are 13 and 14 years old, field recording at Academia Llano y Joropo, 2014

Juliana Gomez, Las Tres Damas, young student at Academia Llano y Joropo, field recording at Academia Llano y Joropo, 2014