Jíbaro’s Roots Through the Music at La Guancha in Ponce PR.

By: Andrea Torres Wiscovitch, Krystal Vélez Farinacci, Christian Maldonado Crespo

Mijo de la Palma preparing themselves to begin a wonderful night.

In a calm night, with the breeze blowing on your cheeks that could dance to the music for the first time in a while “La Guanchaat Ponce was a place of tranquility and relaxation. November 22nd was when the music band called Mijo de la Palma presented in public at the aforementioned place. Big parts of the crowd were students from the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. “Yesterday we arrived at Ponce for the first time, with Hermes at our side breaking his jaw and on the other side we had Cardenas, with mellow sounds that brought peace. There were intellectual bright people, nice people, charming people and a native singing and trovando. This man could not let go of the microphone; he was too motivated. We felt like we were at home, on our nation” said Melvin Rivera, Mijo’s lead singer and founder of the group. This group is not very popular, but amongst students and people who follow art and music it’s much admired.

Although Mijo de la Palma is not very known among people, he has many methods of making good music. One of his favorite’s methods it’s trying to revive the past of Puerto Rican people and of Puerto Rico Island. The group is very distinguished when on stage because of the particularly scenario and of course by the way they make an entrance before singing a particular song, just showing something that relates to the theme. When they make a public presentation they usually prefer open spaces; under the sky and stars, or under the sun, surrounded by nature, only nature.

This time they offered something special at “La Guancha”, under a dark and beautiful sky, with the cold air announcing Christmas season. They played from 9:00 to 11:30pm and about 50 persons attended the remarkable show.  The candles surrounded the stage and the musicians and the people sat on the floor because there weren’t any tables, it was something very rustic but spectacular at the same time. That night only offered music and tranquility.

During the show two painters showed at the stage and began working. They were painting an image of what was going on that moment; both of the painters were art students, one from University of Puerto Rico and the other from Interamericana University of Puerto Rico. They said that the only inspiration they needed was the indigenous flute chanting to them.

When the show ended the people were more than excited. At the end, the singer began to mention some of the special guests that were there and of course the musicians. That Tuesday night in Ponce, the sound of Melvin’s voice and his guitar seemed to rise from the sea, with delicacy and rhythm.  The voice accompanied by melancholic sounds made by the indigenous percussion by Kenneth Melendez, and the harmonica of Adalis Ortiz Toro. At the beginning of every song you could hear the sweet and yet refined voice of René Pérez Martínez, Hermes Ayala and Kidanny Acevedo reciting native poetries, making the melody a heaven for your ears.

Rubén Alvarez, one of the spectators, mentioned too a distinctive professor at the UPR at Mayaguez, Sonja Mongar, who was a close friend of him. He said that she played the harmonica like no one else, that the melody was very different from the others and because of that he admired her. “The harmonica that plays such at the touch was special every night. Every note vibrates inside my soul and was impossible to get out of my mind. Her interpretation made me feel the feeling that she wants it to transfers her feelings. It makes me really sad that she is not playing with then anymore”.

Art and music have always been together from the beginning and they’re two things that cannot go apart. In order to make and create music, people need to understand art. But not everybody is meant to create music, play an instrument or simply sing. It takes devotion and you have to be born with the talent. The group has been formed and inspired by a Puerto Rican, Melvin Lopez Rivera, to contribute and deliver a message worldwide about the roots of his country, Borinquen.

Mijo de la Palma is a musical group of “Nueva Trova” from Orlando, Florida, but has been established in Puerto Rico. They began playing and seeking the same dream every other artist seeks, making good music. But the curious thing about them it’s that they didn’t care if they became famous; they just wanted people to understand the message they were delivering, especially Puerto Rican roots. This way, they could be recognized first locally then worldwide. They have a unique sound when they play, good lyrics, etc. This is necessary to make an international hit.

Although their songs have peace and love quotes, they emphasize in the Puerto Rican history, transforming the lyrics into a magnificent fusion. “The music from Mijo de la Palma enters through your ears and goes directly to your soul revolving your feelings of what’s yours and inspires you to claim it,” said Ruben Alvarez. The event was named “Mijo: El Machetero en la Guancha” and some of the songs they presented were: “Puerto Rico en Cuatro Velas”, “Jugué”, “Ahí se va”, “Rumbo al Este”, “La Promesa”, “Polvo,” etc. Their melodies are the sound and cry of the native from the country. From its beginning, it has been very clear and charming at the same time; with their musicality they can conquer many souls. Also, they have stayed very humble and seem to think that with their artistic expression they can connect the people with their roots and culture.

Throughout his career, Mijo has participated in many socialistic activities. One of them was the strike at the University of Puerto Rico in 2010. On the tour that the group organized here in Puerto Rico many of the townships gave Mijo a warm welcome and offered him shelter, celebrating and cheering because of his presence. Some of these towns were Mayaguez, Cabo Rojo, Utuado, San Germán, Rincón, Río Piedras, Viejo San Juan, Ceiba, Yauco, Corozal, San Lorenzo, Caguas, San Sebástian and many more.  Mijo and his group have gained the respect of the people and have been traveling through many countries in Latin America, making tours throughout Mexico, Venezuela, Panama, Orlando, Sacramento, San Francisco and many more.

In order to create the high quality of his sound, narrate events from our life and develop his message, Mijo has been influenced by other great artists like Julia de Burgos, Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Rivera, Silvio Rodriguez, Hector Lavoe, Tracy Chapman, P. A. Campos, Toñin Romero, Manu Chao, Voltaire y Herman Hesse and many more.

There are a lot of professional people who aren’t Puerto Ricans and yet they admired Mijo de la Palma because of his music but most of all for his love to his country. Mijo achieved captive all the spectators since the first song until the last one. For more information about this glorious music band and to hear their music you can his website: www.mijodelapalma.bandcamp.com. Or check it on Facebook: Mijo de la Palma

Nelson A. Vélez drawing what Mijo inspired on him.

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