Guatemalan Composers Part 2: Jazz
By Diana Pastor
On the 30th of April the world once again celebrates international jazz day – an occasion to celebrate what has been a symbol of freedom throughout musical history, both for its versatility as for its magnificent capacity for the expression of emotions.
Those of us who love the genre here in Guatemala have been happy to see that, in recent years, jazz has been spreading throughout the country and becoming more and more popular with each day that passes. One reason for this jazztastic expansion has been the visits paid to our country by a number of foreign musicians who, famous or not, have made it possible for us Guatemalans to expand our musical horizons. Another reason has been the internal growth of national jazz artists that have driven the creation and composition of Guatemalan music into new territories, and, in some way or another, have struggled to gain spaces in which they can make their talents known to others. Some years ago, for example, the Trova-jazz cafe opened in Guatemala city, as a project-business that enables the propagation of both genres.
Last month in Quetzaltenango the sixth edition of the International Jazz Festival was held, during which artists and groups from a variety of countries such as Spain, France, Italy and Mexico performed. Moreover there was an excellent representation of quetzalteco musicians, such as from the group Soltura Jazz (who have been one of the pioneers of the genre in Xela and who play every Friday in Royal Paris restaurant), who were able to demonstrate their skills and their love of the music during their performances for the festival.
At the national level, this festival had its 14th edition. But this is only one example of the efforts that have been made not only to raise awareness about this genre of music, but also to support the musicians and composers performing in the country. For example, one of the most recent efforts was the launch of a competition to create jazz compositions, in which Guatemalan musicians were able to demonstrate their talent in the production of musical pieces. On the www.jazz.gt page you can find and listen to the three pieces that won the 2013 contest. Rolando Lopez, with his tune “Cuarto para las siete” (A Room for seven), Rosse Aguilar, with “Freedom” and Victor Arriaza with “Black & Pink”, which he performed with his group Imox, all also performed in the aforementioned jazz festival in Guatemala city.
Those who are interested in seeing jazz concerts in Guatemala, should check out the page http://jazzenguatemala.blogspot.com/ to find concert dates, radio programs, events, and more about the genre and its manifestations in Guatemala. This page was created by Rolando “Jechu” Gudiel, another renowned Guatemalan jazz musician. Most concerts are held in the capital, but there are also concert dates in Antigua Guatemala, Quetzaltenango and occasionally also in other departments.