Gabriel Huentemil, guitarrón chileno

Puente Alto, is a rural region within Santiago with a high criminal rate and one of Santiago’s commune with a high number of Coronavirus breakouts. Puente Alto is densely populated area and with a deficient healthcare system. Central Government has no interest in the people of this commune and does not intend to show any interest now.

However, behind this situation resides a man that his quest is to keep alive an oral tradition that were passed from generation to generation. On this week’s episode, I had the pleasure of having as a guest Mr. Gabriel Huentemil Ortega. A Santiaguino who was raised on Puente Alto. A man whose path into music started playing classical music thru a viola and, later, he decided to detour from classical to traditional popular music from the native people. He is a man whose vision on traditional music, he dislikes the term folklore, is very orthodox. He does not condemn but do not approve how musicians nowadays play the guitarron chileno. For him, el guitarron chileno should be played as ancestors did. I might dare to say that he might object that a foreigner intends or desires to learn or even to play the guitarron chileno. He claimed that guitarron chileno was in Chile many years ago, but that is not true at all. It is well known that string instruments came to America with Spanish conquerors. Its shape and tuning are a transformation of classical guitar or even the vihuela.

We talked a lot about the different genres he interprets with his guitarron chileno and how current musicians approach this string instrument. Of my many questions asked to him, one was very crucial to me to boxed Gabriel Huentemil in a very orthodox musician. My question on how he will teach a student willing to learn to play guitarron chileno was the base of his whole approach to how everything should be with the guitarron chileno. His answer was not strange to me. He told me that he will ask several questions to the student to see how legit is his/her will to play the guitarron chileno. If he sees or feels anything that does not fall under his paradigm, he will dispatch that person.

Not always I will coincide with my guest’s opinion. Gabriel Huentemil was one of those rare moments where my opinions and his were opposing. His answers to my questions showed a person not that flexible or willing to accept the trend of incorporating traditional music into new way of music. His mentioned of Impetus Theory was not at all accurate. Based on Buridan’s study of Aristotelian Impetus Theory, an object might be moved by another. Eventually, will decrease its speed because of many factors (air resistance, gravity, etc). In music, if traditional/folklore music is not study, shared, or taught, it will fall in oblivion and hard to rescue.

He never answered my question on how to protect or collect that “traditional music” -I will still call it folklore music- besides the work he is doing. His simple answer that you need to put yourself into motion, knock in a door, and show your interest was very contradictory to his previous answer.

Setting aside my disagreement with most of his views in music, this episode is an opportunity for all my audience to get a feeling and get to know orthodox views in music. Not all musicians are progressive or in favor of blending traditional sounds with new ones. However, time will tell who was right and who was wrong.

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