The Common Thread of Venezuela: Guataca

About 12 years ago, businessman Ernesto Rangel set out to create a cultural platform to represent and support Venezuelan music and culture. As the principal architect, Ernesto established Guataca, a platform with the objective to spread the talent of emerging Venezuelan musicians, promote their projects, and support initiatives in Venezuela and the world. 

Starting from a friendship with one of the most prolific musicians in the country, Aquiles Baez–guitarist and producer, the duo first completed a project together called The Song of Venezuela (2005). From there, Ernesto and Aquiles began supporting new talents, recording their albums, and serving as a catapult. The movement quickly transformed into a platform with an office and a small team that worked as a producer of concerts and as a record label. It wasn’t long before Guataca had landed on the radar of music lovers. 

Throughout the last decade, Ernesto Rangel has led Guataca to many achievements; the platform has produced about twenty albums and one musician, Miguel Siso, won a 2018 Latin Grammy.

In 2006, Guataca had its first real starting point as a Venezuelan music platform when Ernesto brought on the finalists of the La Siembra del Cuatro Festival, the C4 Trio. As Jorge Glem, Edward Ramirez and Hector Molinda signed on to the Guataca, the platform began to take shape into a cultural movement of musicians with a deep love for traditional roots and their country.

Within three years, the C4 Trio had become an opening act. At the Aula Magna of the UCV, organized by Jorge Drexler, C4 performed a set in front of an audience that had yet to hear of them. By the end of their act, however, the trio received a standing ovation. 

Ernesto Rangel recalls the night:

“The emotion I felt to see the boys perform in a room of people that didn’t know them and receive a standing ovation was very great. I was told that during their performance, Jorge Drexler asked the producers who was performing. These were the moments that gave me the most happiness: the moments when I can see that people recognize the special musical talent at Guataca.”

As a non-profit platform, Ernesto works to establish connections for talent in Miami, New York, Houston, Orlando, and has even begun to approach American arenas that are new to the guataquero circuit, such as Phoenix, Dallas, and Minneapolis. Consolidation in Buenos Aires is also pending, while performances in Panama has been a more frequent stop. However, Guataca has offices in Madrid and Barcelona and is active in Caracas, Lecheria, and Mexico City. 

As the Guataca reaches new places and achieves new accolades, the culture platform’s objectives remain the same: to make Venezuelan music known in the world and that Venezuelans integrate with other cultures through music. 

To clarify, Ernesto furthers:

“We never wanted Guataca to be a Venezuelan initiative for only Venezuelans. For example, in Panama, we have presented a beautiful experience for all musicians. One night we introduce Panamanian talent, the next is Venezuelan, an in each a cross musician is invited so that Panamanians musicians are performing along with Venezuelan musicians and vice versa.”

As the seeds planted in foreign soil continue to blossom, Guataca has transcended the musical aspect to serve as a connection point for Venezuelan’s that are far from their homeland. 

As Ernesto puts it:

“We represent not only the showcase to publicize Venezuelan music to people from other places, but we also represent an awakening for Venezuelan’s who do not know their country’s music. As Venezuela combats tragedy, Guataca aims to help people once again connect with their culture, with Venezuela. This is not done with shame; it is more saying–with pride– that this is our music and this is our culture.”

Twelve years after the start of Guataca, Venezuelan music has never been so present abroad. While organizing events to bring personalities of consecrated artists and idols from other Venezuelan eras to the new generations, Guataca aims to cultivate from the future. Ernesto understands that without an understanding of the references, and the past, Venezuela cannot move forward. 

Ernesto Rangel believes, “From the bad, something very good will remain. There is a growth, a personal improvement, and a reinvention happening here. There is no learning with suffering. No one grows effortlessly.”

Translated by Ernesto Rangel

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