‘Joropo’: jazz, with a South American flavor Pianist brings special blend to latest UBS Atrium concert

If you ask accomplished pianist and composer Claudia Calderon to best describe “joropo” – a style of music indigenous to both Venezuela and her native Colombia – she would say it’s an off-shoot of American jazz.

“Joropo, like jazz, is based on harmonic styles,” said Calderon, who will perform with her ensemble in the latest of the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center’s free lunchtime concerts, the UBS Atrium Series, this Tuesday in Weehakwen at 12:30 p.m. “It leaves room for improvising. It also has great potential to develop into more complex structures.”

“Joropo Llanero” is the traditional music that is a perfect marriage between folk and classical. It comes from the Arabic word “xarop,” which means syrup, and the music drips with culture, style and flair.

The usual instrumentation of the Joropo Llanero is the classic trio of harp or bandola, the cuatro, and the maracas, but Calderon has translated the music to the piano, giving it a distinctive taste.

There are similarities between “joropo” and traditional flamenco, but there is still a unique and distinct flavor to the rhythms and style that Calderon brings out in every performance that she gives.

According to a Colombian website, “joropo” is not only a brand of traditional music. It is also a style of dance and social celebration, found regularly at parties and gatherings such as weddings, birthday parties, or baptisms, all in a flavorful celebration.

Which all means one thing: It is a fun style of music; upbeat, electric and alive.

“Joropo belongs to the folklore of both Colombia and Venezuela,” Calderon explained.

Calderon believes that bringing the traditional style to the piano has made it more entertaining and exciting. “It helps to translate this music for other cultures,” Calderon said. “It can preserve the joy of the music on the piano and doesn’t lose its other qualities.”

Calderon has performed her distinct style of “joropo” all over the world, playing in concerts in France, Germany, England, Uruguay, Mexico and her native Colombia. She recently completed a tour of Hong Kong and China.

“Classical and folk musicians have been coming together, both bringing something to this fusion,” Calderon said. “The classically trained bring their technique. Folk musicians bring their repertoire. Musicians like to speak both languages, classical and folk. It makes for a great growth period.”

Developed its popularity Calderon has been a driving force worldwide in developing the popularity of “joropo.”

In 1999, she created the Fundación Editorial Arpamérica, an institution for the purpose of researching, rescuing and promoting harp and bandola music through educational publications and new compositions.

Calderon then worked tirelessly in translating the traditional harp music to the piano, recording her first CD, entitled “El Piano Llanero,” released in 2002.

Her new CD “El Piano Llanero II” is slated for release later this year.

Needless to say, Calderon’s concert Tuesday in Weehawken will be one of a kind.

HRPAC “We’re very fortunate to be able to present Ms. Calderon with her group,” HRPAC executive director Bruce Sherman said.

HRPAC runs concerts and events all year to help raise money for a waterfront arts center.

Sherman said, “They’re rarely in the United States, but happen to be here now for the APAP conference (Association of Performing Arts Presenters), where they are giving a couple of concerts. It’s wonderful to be able to present such a distinguished artist, respected not only for her skill as a musician, but also as a composer, teacher and musicologist.”

The Claudia Calderon Ensemble is the latest offering on the UBS Atrium Series, presented this Tuesday at 12:30 PM in the lobby atrium of the UBS Building, 1000 Harbor Boulevard, in the Lincoln Harbor section of Weehawken. Admission is free and there is free parking. For further information, call (201) 716-4540 or visit www.hrpac.org.


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