Deep in the Montes de María, on the shores of Colombia’s Caribbean coast, with the advent of the Spanish conquest and the arrival of the enslaved African population, the sound of a new race was born. The native Kogi tribe descended from the snow-capped peaks with their flutes imitating the song of the birds, slaves introduced the overpowering cadence of their drums, and the Spaniards imposed their melancholic song to give birth to gaita music cradled in the tiny town of San Jacinto. Time slowly gave shape to the gaiteros as they sang to life, love, and suffering, as women’s hips could not help following the drumbeat, and as listeners’ souls would give in to the melancholic airs of the gaitas or reed flutes. Centuries of music and rum created Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto, the greatest maestros of this tradition.
Legend has it that Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto were formed around 1930. Founded by Miguel Antonio “Toño” Fernandez, they have preserved and disseminated their art for over five generations. Passing the torch from father to son, from uncle to nephew, this group has become one of Colombia’s cultural treasures and the living expression of Latin America’s history of strength, passion and survival. Today, their eldest members, Toño García and Juancho Fernandez, each over 77 years of age, lead the shining young heirs of this new tradition. Once on stage, these seven musicians come to life as the rhythm and strength of history begins to flow through their veins. Their most recent album, Un Fuego de Sangre Pura (Fire in the Blood), from the Smithsonian Folkways Series Recordings of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., won the Latin Grammy Award 2007 for Best Traditional Album competing against highly recognized artists such as Muñequitos de Matanzas from Cuba. Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto, a century of tradition inspired by the passion of a lifetime.