Cuatro maestro on the hunt
Renowned and award-winning cuatro player Raul Landaeta is in Barbados to discover fresh talent.
Actually, this week, the Venezuelan has been teaching Barbadians how to play the cuatro, which has been his country’s national instrument for many years, but a rare item to the people of this land.
“Barbadians are not too familiar with the cuatro, but there are people here who know how to play it. I am here doing this workshop to teach more people about the cuatro and how to play [it],” he told Barbados TODAY during an interview today at the Venezuelan Embassy in Hastings, Christ Church.
The cuatro is one of several Latin American instruments of the guitar or lute family. Cuatro means four in Spanish –– although current versions of the instrument may have more than four strings. The cuatro is found in South America and some territories of the Caribbean.
About 12 students of the Venezuelan Institute For Culture And Cooperation, a branch of the Venezuelan Embassy, have participated in the practical and theoretical workshop which was started on Monday.
Landaeta said he believed it was executed successfully and marvellously. He spoke of a participant, over 60, who quickly learnt the techniques, grasping the skills of playing the folk instrument.
“This is the first time she has played the cuatro, and she is going to play in concert with me. It is wonderful that she came here not knowing how to play cuatro and was quick to pick it up.
“That means that she really wanted to play the cuatro and that I am a good teacher,” he said laughingly.
Who is Landaeta and what is his claim to fame?
Landaeta has had to date an illustrious career with his naturally gifted musical and humanistic abilities. The 50-year-old artiste was born in Caprito, in Monagas State, Venezuela, but grew up on the island of Margarita, just off the north-east coast of Venezuela.
He has represented his country on the foremost stages in Europe, Africa, Asia, North America and throughout his own South America. And, commendably, the Venezuelan has left an indelible mark on these continents, being the heir of a spiritually uplifting culture that has characterized him as a musical researcher, teacher, conference orator, writer and certified international chef, among other attributes.
He was also the recipient of the Muscon Centre Award of the Musical Society of Nigeria, an honour bestowed upon him for his work in support of world peace, as a result of his musical renditions in a tour of seven African countries during which he appeared in concert in homage to Nelson Mandela.
Landaeta studied music at the José Lorenzo Llamosas School Of Music in Caracas. While abroad, he pursued studies in musicology and research at the Regional Conservatory in Midi Perennes, Toulouse, France; and the Municipal Superior Conservatory in Barcelona, Spain, specializing in renaissance music at both of these institutes.
“We are universal through culture. Our culture makes us universal beings. I don’t think it matters which country you come from; it is all about culture.
“The fact that people play cuatro in this country makes me feel like Barbados is my home. Barbadians are now my extended family, and I feel like I belong here because you play cuatro as well,” the musician stated.
Playing this instrument could connect people in other countries –– Landaeta’s aim, when he talks about discovering new talent.
“Barbadians can go to St Vincent or Trinidad to play cuatro with other players. Instruments are tools of mass construction. I have been playing from eight years old and I have had a very gifted life,” said the instructor who recently established an music institute in Trinidad & Tobago.
Landaeta is currently in the process of publishing his book El Cuatrol en el Caribe (The Cuatro In The Caribbean), with its historical background in Venezuela, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados.
As for what was learnt during the workshop, this will be showcased when the Venezuelan Embassy holds a concert titled Under The Stars on its Hastings lawns.
Next week, the embassy hosts a maracas workshop.