Blog: La Marvela Represents the Musical Traditions of Colombia

Music lovers in the Washington DC metropolitan area have been out of sorts since the start of the pandemic as many local venues have had to close due to COVID-19. Performing artists have had to find creative ways to connect with their audiences. Many have been successful as some still struggle with the changes. Alison Caro and Velu Ochoa of the musical group La Marvela, shared how the band is doing during these different times and stressed that the music is most important during times like these.

The band presents Afro-Colombian-styled music and consists of  Amy Vitro and Marly Perez on tambor alegre, Luisa Millan on the lamador and vocals, Laura Love on tambora and guitar, Janys Basto as the featured dancer of the group and Ochoa and Caro on maracas and vocals.  All but one of the members are originally from different cities in Colombia and currently reside throughout the Washington DC metropolitan area, some living in Montgomery County, Maryland. I had the opportunity to talk to Ochoa and Caro briefly about La Marvela as they invite us to check out their new video posted above.

I am a fan of the music of Afro-Colombian artist Toto La Momposina and am familiar with different types of Colombian music from my travels throughout Colombia last year. But, I’m sure most locals are probably only aware of mainstream Colombian artists like Shakira. Tell us about the diversity of Colombian music and how your band introduces audiences to the different sounds of Colombia.

We try to honor the music of our ancestors as much as we can and reflect that in our music. Our music is a representation of Colombian traditional Afro-Indigenous folklore told with an immigrant perspective. We do play some of Toto’s music in our repertoire as well as other women leaders in folkloric music.

Who started the group and what brought you all together?

The group was started by Marly, Velu and Alison and the love for music and in particular the love for honoring and continuing our Colombian ancestral music as immigrants in the USA brought us together.

What are ways that your band is still creating and engaging with the public since the emergence of COVID-19?

We have been keeping active in social media. We created a quarantine video in which each member played, sang and danced from a distance and we put this together and shared it with our followers.  As a band we have been meeting virtually and sometimes in person in a safe space to continue learning and creating music internally.

Earlier this year, in April, Montgomery County executive Elrich launched a domestic violence awareness campaign. What led you the band to have a social platform that speaks out against domestic abuse? 

Domestic abuse is something that unfortunately we have experienced in one form or another. It is an issue of concern in Latin American countries and in Colombia and we use our platform to bring awareness to this issue.

What are some ways that the band has supported activism related to domestic abuse awareness?

As a band, we sing songs that talk about women empowerment, strength, female power, sisterhood, support, resistance by playing drums that have not been the norm for women to play. We also conducted a drum and music workshop to bring awareness to domestic abuse and donated the proceedings to a local organization that helps immigrant women.

What would you like readers to know about your band’s music that we wouldn’t probably realize at first listen?

Our music speaks of the everyday happiness and sorrows of our people, it also reflects the resistance and ancestral power of our Colombian people and our experiences as Colombian American women living new lives in the USA.

Tell us about the video you are sharing with us today.

This was our quarantined music video for our song “Añoranza” or “Home Sickness”. The song is a La Marvela original song written by our singer Alison.

Sometimes the heart needs us to cry, needs us to stop the buzz of our hectic days to let it breath and recover its beautiful rhythm. That’s why “Añoranza is longing for the embrace of those you leave behind when you go on to look for a new way of life. “Añoranza is resisting the distance and passing of time that erases the smiles and memories of the wonderful, and sometimes imperfect people. The people that gave their best and marked your soul to create the unique person you are today. It is missing their touch and support more than ever. So, when you allow your heart to remember, you open a fountain of love and kindness that won’t run dry.

Be sure to check La Marvela online. Connect with them via Facebook and IG at @lamarvelamusic or visit their website HERE.

If you or someone you know in Montgomery County is experiencing a domestic abuse situtation, the Montgomery County Family Justice Center (FJC) can be reached by telephone at 240-773-0444 or by email at safe@montgomerycountymd.gov. The Montgomery County Crisis Center is open 24/7 and can be reached at 240-777-4000. Information, resources and materials can be found on the FJC website at montgomerycountymd.gov/fjc.

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Khadijah Ali-Coleman, Ed.D.

About Khadijah Ali-Coleman, Ed.D.

The ArtsEnPower blog is curated by MCM’s Director of Education and Community Engagement, Khadijah Ali-Coleman, EdD. Dr. Ali-Coleman is founding director of Liberated Muse Arts Group, a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist awardee and 2020 Quadrant Playwright Fellow with Theater Alliance in Washington DC. She has taught at schools throughout the area, including Montgomery College, Northern Virginia Community College and Morgan State University. Growing up in both Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, MD, she was born in Washington DC and has shared her art within the region for more than 20 years as a performer and teaching artist.

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