Bandola Music Festival in Sevilla delivers strings to the wind

Andean folk band Semillas at Bandola Music Festival. Photo: Bandola

If you enjoy music festivals in towns that aren’t always part of the regular tourist beat, then the Bandola Music Festival in Sevilla, Valle del Cauca, offers visitors four full days of music, while enjoying the sights and cups of locally-harvested coffee of a town located in the foothills of the Central Cordillera, and easy drive three hours northeast of Cali or 1 hour south of Armenia, Quindío.

The bandola Festival tributes the curved wooden cordophone derived from the Arab musical instruments that arrived in the Americas and similar to the European mandolin.

After two years in which the festival went virtual and with live streaming, and a few outdoor events held in the town’s Casa de la Cultura (House of Culture) and local parks, this year’s edition returns with a full slate of performances by local and well-known bands. The town’s Plaza de la Concordia is the venue for the main Carlos Arboleda stage, as well as Parque Uribe for events running parallel to this festival, including its much beloved Peasant Concert, Women’s Song, and Retreta with the headline act ‘Santa Cecilia’ from San Pedro Valle.

Starting on Friday, August 12, with concerts at the Alcázar Theater and Óscar Toro Echeverri Hall of the House of Culture, that same afternoon, the Departmental Band of Valle del Cauca debuts with a select repertoire of Colombian music, and on Saturday afternoon, in the Alcázar Theater is the celebration of Bandolitis 15 Years with the plucked string orchestra “EnPúa” of the University of Antioquia.

On Sunday morning EnPúa will perform its second concert accompanied by the OTE Student Band of the Casa de la Cultura Foundation in the Casa’s auditorium. A sample of the musical diversity of the country can be enjoyed with this year’s guest list, among them, folk duets Dueto Nocturno and Dueto Primavera from Boyacá, and carranga ensemble Rumbambuquiando, also from Boyacá, and a territory known for melding lyrical narratives with traditional instruments.

The salsa band Toño Barrio from Bogotá and Latin Grammy winners Puerto Candelaria will join bands from the country’s musically diverse regions, such as Tolima represented by Ensemble Cantaima, and fusion group Son de Pueblo. The coffee triangle will be represented by Café Urbano (Armenia), and the all-women percussionists Tambor Hembra with their eclectic Caribbean sounds. The Musical Workshop from the north of Cauca (TIMCCA) presents Caucano violins.

The bands from Valle del Cauca – Rumberto, Mr.Klaje, Ustedes, Pentandra, Mambata – are a showcase of current proposals with different genres. The party music for this year’s event comes also from the coffee region with groups Los Chamico (Salento, Quindío) and Los Caciques del Ritmo and El Abejorro (Sevilla, Valle del Cauca). And defying regional stereotypes in terms of musical identity, the vallenateros Xpresion Vallenata is a new sound in these windswept highlands.

The slate of Latin American Andean music includes Semilla (Cali); Huari-runa (Yumbo, Valle) and Palo Mestizo (Tuluá). These concerts will be accompanied by colorful dances. The founding bands of the festival Miller Santanilla and Cantar del Llano, Julián Rodríguez and Grupo Bandola – hosts of the event – will also take to the festival’s central stage.

The Bandola Festival this year pays tribute to two women, Dora Carolina Rojas “Corita”, a prominent Colombian minstrel who founded Encuentro Bandolitis 15 years ago, and Marta Elena Hoyos, who is celebrating 30 years of her artistic career.

On Saturday, August 13, the Parque Uribe hosts Cantorío de Mujeres 19 años and a gathering of renowned vocalists who will lead audiences on a journey of love through music. The performers in this category are Tambor Hembra; Martha Toledo (Oaxaca, Mexico); and Mathilda Haynes and Analú with their unique Colombian-French jazz repertoire. Singer songwriter María Vanedi (Neiva, Huila) will also perform, as well as Son Pacífico accompanying Cantorío founder Martha Elena Hoyos.

One of the highlights of this festival is the Carnival of Hugs and vibrant parade-turned-ritual with the participation of artists, visitors and the local community. By hugging your favorite musician, artisan, coffee grower or stranger on the street, you show respect for others and the community at large. Sunday afternoon is the marathon hug-a-fest.

La Ñapa on Monday 15 is the farewell concert and showcase of traditional and alternative/rock music. The acts are all from Sevilla and include Pentatónica, Jhon Guapacha, Rock de mi Tierra and Viento y Alma. As Sevilla is a coffee-growing town, many concerts take place inside coffee shops and expression of the kindness and warmth of its inhabitants, who cherish their role as superior hosts.

After four days in Sevilla at a festival that has the seal of recognition from the Ministry of Culture’s National Cultural Concertation Program; Mayoralty of Sevilla; and Government of Valle del Cauca; you will be keeping the festival’s promise to come back. A promise, like so many over 27 years, that will preserve this festival’s longevity at the heart of a town that delivers strings to the wind, and world.