It was the stages of festivals and competitions that saw the birth of Ana Veydó’s career, as this is how many artists begin their careers in the industry. However, these environments were limiting Veydó’s vision of her music, image, and future.
“I found them disappointing because they do not admit any artistic projection. Rather, the festivals and contests admit only one way of singing joropo, only one way of dressing, all this under the excuse of what some consider tradition,” Veydó confessed to us.
She wanted to extend her dreams beyond the concept of the traditional genre that exists in these events. That is why she moved away from the artistic scene for a while, entered the Conservatory, and studied History at the National University of Colombia.
When Ana Veydó returned to singing, she decided to record her first album, “Recio,” with Carlos Cuco Rojas as producer and recording engineer. Both agreed that they wanted “to do something different with joropo, to look for unimaginable scenarios with a proposal that went beyond the local.”
Thus, Cimarrón was born — a group that presents the Llanos del Río Orinoco’s joropo with a global and contemporary sound. The Colombian band was nominated for a 2019 Latin Grammy in the Best Folk Album category, has performed in 35 countries on five continents, and has innovated the joropo scene with a unique blend of its Andalusian, indigenous and African roots.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with the great artist and vocalist of Cimarrón, Ana Veydó, about her passion for llanera music, her singing style, the role her identities play in a musical genre saturated by cisgender men, and more.
How was your love for llanera, joropo, and canto recio born?
I was born in the countryside, in western Boyacá, Colombia. My parents grew coffee and sugar cane, but there were also cattle. My mother picking coffee with her own woven palm baskets while my sisters and I put away the calves is the most vivid image I have. In the afternoon, when we finished working, what we listened to on the radio was llanera music.
That is how I got to know and learned to love this music. The Venezuelan radio stations reached Boyacá and played the harp, cuatro, and maracas format, but the Colombian radio played similar airs, played with tiples and Andean guitars.
I was more impressed by the Venezuelan format, especially the tough singing that spoke of the hard work in the countryside, with that fast and vigorous rhythm. It spoke of everything I was living at that time, even though I was not born in the Llano. Because of my character, I immediately identified with what I was hearing. Unfortunately, I never heard any woman singing recio, only passages or songs more similar to bolero.
When I wanted to venture into recio singing, my only references were men. It was not because women didn’t sing recio, but because very few of them were recorded, and none of them was featured on the radio.
What are some of the obstacles you have had on your way to success? How have you overcome them?
I think the big obstacle is that the music we start from is really the leading discursive practice of a single identity: the man on horseback. This is deepened by the institutions, from where the artists are seen as a political instrument at the service of that discourse, but also to show what they call the preservation of folklore.
This closes the doors to everything that is different, to everything that recognizes other identities, other ways of being and reading the region, other ethnic components, even other geographies, because the Orinoco is much more than plains: it is jungle and mountains.
Rejection has led us to look for a place in the world. But even abroad, we encounter resistance. When it thinks of Colombian music, the international industry always thinks of music that has more connection with dance. However, the public has shown us that they love us, and the success has been to put this music at very high levels, next to rock, jazz, classical music. Our success has not been in awards or money.
How have your identities, especially as a Latina woman, influenced your career as a singer?
My identities are based on the recognition of my ancestry. I am a Latina woman aware that in my blood, there is indigenous, Afro, and European blood. I am not ashamed of any of them, I do not despise any of them, and I express myself through all of them. I am from Boyaca, daughter of peasants from Cundinamarca, granddaughter of an Afro-Caribbean woman.
I make what is considered “llanera” music. I believe that this vision of myself has led to the fact that music for me is the expression of identities in permanent construction. As a Latina, I feel that I show the world that Latin America made to scale that is the Orinoco region. All Latin American diversity is gathered along the Orinoco River. What I propose to the world is a journey through what we are, but also through our diverse ancestry.
What do you hope to convey emotionally with your music?
With our music, we want to take the spirit of the Orinoco to the world. We put it on stage under the concept of a party, set with our ancestors’ millenary energy. In the Cimarrón show, the men on horseback are represented, but we do not tell a unique story: there you can see the duel of an Orinoco Indian, the Africanness of the joropo in the percussion and the solo zapateada dance, with the same balance for all these ethnic components and from the scenic vision of a woman.
As an international leader in a genre saturated by men, what advice would Ana Veydó give to young women who want to succeed in similar industries?
Women who have the initiative to form their own proposals in music always find a double challenge. Almost everything in music has been built by men or by their vision. Our job is to dismantle, deconstruct, but the discourse as a statement does not work.
Everything can carry that intention from what one does as a woman. But beyond that, I feel that in these times, it is essential for each woman to be as she wants to be in any field, without pressure, with free choice, with all the risks that imply, being honest and looking for integrating mechanisms and respect for diversity.
Do you have any new projects you would like to tell us about?
Cimarrón is still my project. We want to continue opening spaces for a music genre that is still very unknown. This year we are going back to the studios to make new music.
The musical proposal of Ana Veydó and her group Cimarrón is definitely something you can’t miss. Stay tuned to their social media for their upcoming releases.