World Routes Academy mentee José rehearsing with his mentor Egidio Cuadrado and Carlos Vives's musicians in La Mesa
World Routes Academy protege Jose Hernando recently visited Colombia to work with his mentor and to record for BBC Radio 3. Here, he describes his feelings about the trip.
The 23rd of March was the day I said to myself, here's where the adventure starts. I remember going inside the plane and sitting beside BBC producers Roger Short, Juan Carlos Jaramillo and BBC engineer Andrew Smile (who each carried one of my accordions as hand luggage), and feeling the plane taking off. The feeling was great, yet at the same time I felt a bit blue for leaving my family. This was the first time I left the country without them, but on the positive side I was going to have fun on the sessions with my mentor Egidio Cuadrado and Carlos Vives' musicians. I also thought to myself, 'Yes I'll be going after three years of not visiting Colombia' - it was a wonderful feeling I felt instantly.
We approached Bogota that same day, and the next day drove to La Mesa' (about 60 km from the capital) where we recorded our first music session. On the car journey I saw paradise: beautiful panoramas of mountains, plants, tree ponds. Even though were in the rainy season, it was still around 25 degrees so no need for a jacket. We were welcomed at a stunning country house with a traditional welcoming party -- called parranda -- and everyone, including the BBC guys, ended up dancing and playing mariachis. During my stay, I learned new techniques from my mentor and made new friends; the famous Gaiteros de San Jacinto whom the BBC had invited to the house.
The famous bagpipers, the Gaiteros de San Jacinto in La Mesa
On the 4th day of the trip, I met Carlos Vives in person, at first I couldn't believe it that I was going to meet the Vallenato Superstar, but I soon discovered he was very cheerful and unintimidating. He s a kind person with a great personality and he was very motivated by the way I was playing the accordion back stage..so much so that he was talking to me about throwing me on the 'Guatapuri River' in Valledupar - as a joke of course. He said it would be an appriopriate baptism to a new Juglar which means 'troubadour'. For him to say that I'm a Juglar really means a lot to me. During the session, I also had the chance to meet another young accordion player, Dani Maestre (an Infant King Vallenato winner); we played the song 'Carito' together. It was great to interact with another accordion player from Colombia. Plus I met Jorge Rojas - the best accordion maker in the country - who ended up fixing my accordions. I also played a piece with him and my mentor Egidio; it was amazing hearing three accordions at the same time. Each of us spoke through our accordions, it was a fantastic experience - a dream come true. I was nervous but when I just grabbed my accordion and started playing all of that went way and excitement is what I experienced.
José with Vallenato pop star Carlos Vives at his restaurant, Gaira Café in Bogota
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