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Half a century has passed since that April in which Luis Enrique Martinez Argote (1923-1995) came for the third time to participate in the Vallenato Legend Festival, excited to win a crown that had eluded him twice. Perhaps he did it to correct the irony, because after allit was he who put the order to the structure of the vallenata song, with his introductions, his melodic accompaniments and the use of accordion basses that, before him, the other accordion players ignored.

On the night of April 30, 1973, Luis Enrique Martínez –who was called ‘El Pollo Vallenato’– went up to the stage Francisco el Hombre, where at that time the final of the Festival was held. he played The singer of Fonseca, Alcirita, The gardener and the puya Francis the Man.

The jury, made up of his five predecessors on the podium –Alejo Durán, Colacho Mendoza, Calixto Ochoa, Alberto Pacheco and Miguel López– could only award him the title of vallenato king.

It was fair. Luis Enrique Martínez Argote, born one hundred years ago, had traced the path that generations of accordion players have followed and that those yet to be born will follow. Experts in this folklore, such as Jaime Pérez Parodi, refer to him as “The rector of the accordion players”, because he turned his music into the paradigm, in which no one can ignore if he intends to play vallenato

(It may interest you: Poncho Cortés: ‘The most important thing that happened to vallenato, happened in Bogotá’).

Martínez was born in El Hatico, in Fonseca (La Guajira); His father, Santander Martínez, repaired roofs, but was an amateur accordion player. At parties he took his son to accompany him with maracas. Luis Enrique would have followed the same steps, had he been an amateur, had he not come across the powerful influences of Pacho Rada and Abel Antonio Villa.

He met the first when he went to live with his mother in Fundación and his musical influence marked him. The second was the one who advised him to dedicate himself fully to music, to live off his talent in the accordion, verse and composition. In that he listened to him, but he contradicted him in something that was fundamental in his story:

Poster of the Vallenata Legend Festival 2023.

Photo:

Vallenato Legend Festival

When he asked him one day why he didn’t use the basses on the accordion, Villa replied: “You don’t use those.” But Luis Enrique, convinced that all the elements of the instrument were there for a reason, decided to use them.

(Also read: These are the ten greatest vallenato minstrels in history).

That use of basses, as well as his structuring of the duty of a vallenato song, gave him the step to history, as a teacher of this folklore. He “he began to make melodies with the basses; Before him, that was not done, the researcher and folklorist Julio Oñate Martínez would say of him. He started doing introductions before performing lyrics to a song.”

Luis Enrique Martínez was skilled at everything. From a very young age they called him ‘El Pollo Vallenato’, due to his ability in piqueria –the duel of verses–, with accordion in hand, in a simile with the chicken that goes out into the ring to win or die in cockfights.

He defined how to play the paseo, the merengue and the puya, the vallenato airs with which -fifty years after his coronation at the Festival that takes place this week- the accordion players who dream of being a vallenato king compete today.
Martínez made his first recording, with Juan Madrid, in 1948. Madrid was an acquaintance from before; They say that he taught her to sing.

Luis Enrique Martínez emerged nationally, at the beginning of the 50s, together with Alejandro Durán, Ramoncito Román and Abel Antonio Villa”. explained Consuelo Araujonoguera, ‘La Cacica’, in her book Vallenatology. “Luis Enrique -added-, through his recordings, is firmly imposed with the creation of new musical passes, making arrangements, squeezing all the tones, without leaving a dead or silent note inside the instrument, all of which, later and as As a consequence of the reception that these innovations would have among fans and followers of Vallenato music, it will generate the impressionist style”.

(Also: This is the list of the vallenato kings of history).

By describing it as ‘impressionist or modern’, ‘La Cacica’ wanted to illustrate the dimension, the before and after that it marked. With him begins the modern vallenato. Before there were “vallenato airs executed monorhythmically and uniformly, without major changes or alterations”, which Araujonoguera described as “expressionist or traditional”.

By describing it as ‘impressionist or modern’, ‘La Cacica’ wanted to illustrate the dimension, the before and after that it marked. With him begins the modern vallenato. Before there were “vallenato airs executed monorhythmically and uniformly, without major changes or alterations”, which Araujonoguera described as “expressionist or traditional”.

In 1951, Martínez’s ingenuity led him to leave his mark in the arrangements for the first recording of La cumbia cienaguera, composed by Esteban Montaño.
So when he obtained the crown of king vallenato, in 1973, he had already built his legacy.

(You can read: These are the competitions that are held during the Vallenato Festival).

As an anecdote, it is said that Martínez attributed not having succeeded earlier to the presence of Rafael Escalona, ​​with whom he had differences, among the Festival juries. And he seemed to confirm it by winning just when the great vallenato composer and one of the founders of the meeting, was not present at the final of that year, when he won the contest.

Now, the Vallenata Legend Festival is held in his honor and the 61 accordion players who aspire to the title of king 2023 arrive at the festival’s competitions with more than twenty songs from the repertoire of this legendary accordion master prepared.

The five best, those who reach the final, will have to interpret -among their four airs- a song of theirs defined by ballot, in a raffle that will be done live before the public of the Parque de la Leyenda.

These songs include classics like The vallenato chicken, Foundation Garden, Alcirita, What a pain, The jabao rooster and The letter.

Thus, on the night of April 30, the title of Rey Vallenato will be won by the one who best interprets the accordion, the airs that Martínez, with his genius and innovation of that time, helped to define.

LILIANA MARTINEZ POLO
CULTURE EDITORIAL
@CulturaET

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