Jesus is the leader and arranger of the band, Los Alegres de Genoy, from the little Genoy village in the Nariño region of Southern Colombia. Jesus’ father, Teorulfo, founded the band in 1985. Since then, the band has never stopped singing about the value of local farmers and in honor of the surrounding nature.
INTERVIEW – october 2016
How did you come to music?
My father is a musician, as were my grandparents. In my village, before, there was no music band. There were bandas [local fanfares] with some drums, trumpets and flutes. This was maintained as a custom. As a young musician I joined the village’s banda, playing snare drum. But we were continuing, always continuing what had been made before… So one day my father said, let’s stop. He was leading the banda with other elders, and they wanted to retire. He decided to stop the old banda and to start a proper music band. He initiated it with his brother-in-law, his uncle and his cousin. It was doing well, so they wanted to keep improving it. So other people, including me, joined in. We gave the band its unique style, while we just wanted to create music! My father and I are the composers of all the band’s songs. We have to leave good memories behind us.
What are you hopping to achieve through this band?
Our roots entirely come from the farmer world. Our elders were farmers, our parents are farmers, and I am also a farmer. So we are not ashamed about our roots. This has always been our aim: making our region known. We want to show the world that farmers are also valuable, that we can have good ideas, which could maybe help transform this world. The world is going through difficult times. Hopefully our compositions, our music, our songs will make people think, will open their hearts, and will make them realize that culture and arts are part of life.
We want our music to have a strong identity, from the Pasto area. For example on the Atlantic coast, they have their characteristic rhythm, the vallenato. That is what’s missing in Southern Nariño. Thanks God we are already starting to create this music identity, because we are part of a large group of fifteen music bands, called Agrumpas (Asociación de grupos de música regional de Pasto). We have an important task: spreading this identity throughout Colombia and throughout the world. We Pastusos [inhabitants of the Pasto area] are ambitious!
I also hope this motivates the youth to move forward and to get interested in their heritage, in addition to the popular rhythms like reggaeton and salsa. They have to learn about their ancestors and their roots.
Why is it important to perpetuate traditional music?
We strive to prevent this music from ever dying. New rhythms are really putting our culture at risk. So what can we do? We have to set an example to the youth, telling them: yes, play your salsa and your reggaeton, but don’t forget the indigenous rhythms from where you were born. We’re not against the youth, but we hope that they don’t forget our rhythms either.
What’s changed a lot, is that now young musicians don’t learn in an empirical way like we used to do: they have music writing. While we have been playing by ear only. So I hope, this music writing will allow them to remember and play the indigenous rhythms.
How do you envision the future of this music?
Well, I feel the youth have been lacking taste and motivation for traditional music. They used to claim, anyways it is going to die… But with this association Agrumpas, we are now working to save the folklore of Nariño. And this will make young people more interested. Because they’re seeing traditional music is not the elders’ thing any longer, it has already been saved. They see dynamic bands like ours that has existed for thirty years. So they will think, why wouldn’t we start new bands of Nariño music too? So I believe they won’t let our music die.
What is music to you?
For me, music is everything. It is my dream, my life. It is the idea that there’s no objective one cannot attain. Thanks God, thanks to the music we were given, many musicians are successful, receive awards, and travel throughout our region and Colombia. We received much recognition. Music gave me a satisfaction I never experienced otherwise. Music is like your child: if you don’t take care of it, it will leave you alone. And I don’t want that. I want us to give it better clothes and to show it my love! So we will have more inspiration and we will play more beautiful songs.
Can you tell us about your people?
The name Genoy was given to the village by our ancestors because of a bird that was called “bird with large claws”. The villagers have always been attached to their land, like the bird’s claws. There, the people are exceptionally friendly and sharing. They welcome foreigners as their children; they invite you, make you feel comfortable, take care of you… This is Genoy.
The people of Genoy are Quillasingas but descend as well from the Chibchas. The latter started settlements around today’s Genoy as places from where to go hunting, and later on they founded the village.
The people of Genoy are really attached to their traditions and roots. It is a land where visitors will always feel safe. If you get lost in the area, someone will come and say, come on, here is some coffee, here is some chicha [a popular Andean beverage], come eat some delicious guinea pig, a typical food from this region! That’s the way we are at Genoy! We are truthful.
Do you have a message for the world?
Never forget the place where you come from. It is the place where you were born, where you grew up, where you started moving forward in life. And if you get the will to play music, never give up on this dream. Even if your dream is big and if people tell you it is not realistic; but if you put effort into it, if you act with care, if you pursue your dream like you love a child, you’ll see it works. You will be successful and you will receive the great satisfaction of a musician: audiences’ applause.
Also, I hope that people will remember the farmers. Don’t leave them forgotten. We are part of Colombia and part of the world. If there were no farmer, then people wouldn’t be able to consume the products they want to. I hope you will have more respect for them. Please support them. And if those farmers are also artists, support them even more!
I hope that our work in this region will be known in other nations. It would be so beautiful for us to go to other countries and present our culture and sensitiveness. I would like to make people from other areas dance! I would like to make them feel what we feel here. It is what we, farmers, are dreaming about. Long live Pasto!
PORTFOLIO – LOS ALEGRES DE GENOY ON STAGE