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Venezuela, Japan: Two Japanese Performers Master the Venezuelan Harp

This post, written in collaboration with Tomomi Sasaki, is part of a series on music as a bridge between Venezuela and Japan. Read the first post here.

The harp is one of the key instruments in Venezuelan music from the plains. Created in the west of the country and then taken to Colombia in the mid-20th century, the Venezuelan harp has 32 or 33 strings of different bores and it has no pedals. According to Gelimar Sanchez de Guerrero in Llanorecords [es], the origins of the harp are not clear due to a lack of historical documents.

Nevertheless, the harp has been one of the bases of Venezuelan folklore music since the beginning of the country's history; years later, the interest for this instrument and its music has expanded beyond the continent, arriving to Japan.

Among the Japanese musicians interested in traditional Venezuelan music, Yoko Yoshizawa and Mika Agematsu stand out in the interpretation of the Venezuelan harp.

Yoko Yoshizawa, one the first Japanese harpists specialized in Venezuelan music, is said to be the “musical godmother” of the Estudiantina Komaba. Members of the Komaba's Facebook group and other fans in Japan and Venezuela have shared and commented on many YouTube videos of Yoshizawa's performances.

In this video, Yoshizawa plays a Quirpa, a traditional rhythm from the Venezuelan plains:

The blog Diary Note [jp] reports on Yoko Yoshizawa's concert.

日本で唯一のベネズエラ音楽を演奏するアルパ(ハープ)奏者である吉澤陽子を、ベネズエラ愛好家たちが囲む出し物。南青山・プラッサオンゼ、出演者/グループの数も多かったが、お店はフル・ハウス。クアトロやマラカスなんかが活躍し、伸びやかな歌が入ったりも。同国の一番知られる曲は「コーヒー・ルンバ」のようだが、前のめりに進んで行って、リズムが余りそうなところイン・タイムで終わるみたいな感覚を持つ曲が多いなあ、なんても、見てて思う。

This was an event for Venezuela buffs to enjoy the music of Yoko Yoshizawa, the only Venezuelan harp player in Japan [Sic]. Held in Minami Aoyama in Tokyo, the event had a big lineup of performers and a full house! The quatro and maracas played a big role, and some songs had liberating melodies. It seems that the most famous Venezuelan song in Japan is “Coffee Rumba”… I felt that there were many other songs with similar rhythms; just when you think the cadence would fall too quickly, the beat comes just in time.

José Francisco Romero [es] calls Mika Agematsu “La japonesa llanera” or the “Japanese girl from the plains”, as she excels in playing the rhythms from that part of the country. In this video, Agematsu plays the song “Moliendo Café” (Grounding coffee) a melancholic love song traditionally played in Venezuela, which was, according to Wikipedia, a hit in Japan during the 60′s

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