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Miami Celebrates Simón Díaz, Venezuelan Culture in ‘Papá Cuatro’ Musical

Miami presenta "Papá cuatro", un homenaje a Simón Díaz y la música venezolana

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A musical pays tribute this Thursday in Miami to the “cuatro”, a small four-stringed guitar that “has lived an arduous journey, the same as more than six million Venezuelans who everyday mix with new cultures around the world,” according to its creators.

Papá Cuatro, defined as “documentary musical theater,” opens July 7 at the Colony Theater, a jewel of Miami Beach’s Art Deco style, is also a tribute to Venezuelan singer and composer Simón Díaz (1928-2014), author of Caballo Viejo among many other songs.

“We are five principals, five musicians with the same weight in the whole show sharing with the public our experience as emigrant musicians,” Venezuelan vocalist and actress Mariaca Semprín, based for five years in Miami, told EFE.

The renowned artist leads “the singing voice” of the show produced by the Miami New Drama company.

She is accompanied by virtuoso cuatrista Miguel Siso, Venezuelan composer and producer who won a Latin Grammy in 2018 for his production “Identidad”; harpist Eduardo Betancourt, also a Latin Grammy winner; Mafer Bandola, a bandola player, another traditional instrument; and drummer Adolfo Herrera, a Latin Grammy nominee.

Semprún has interpreted great singers such as the French Édith Piaf and the Cuban La Lupe. For this last work she was nominated for a Latin Grammy in 2020.

“They are portraits of our lives and of what our culture is. They are small paintings that tell the personal story of us and at the same time the musical story of the country,” he says during a rehearsal break.

According to the show’s production, the Venezuelan cuatro “is one of those few musical instruments capable of safeguarding traditions, culture and identity”.

The staging, with musical arrangements by the same artists who perform in Papá Cuatro, covers all the country’s regional genres.

Papá Cuatro

About Papá Cuatro, which bears the signature of stage director Juan Souki, Semprún specifies that it is “a very experimental process”, a type of “documentary theater”.

“The staging has forced us to travel inward and review the balance of what we are now and how we feel, how music continues to be the refuge, the meeting point and the balm,” says the Venezuelan.

In particular, Semprún says she has been “very fortunate”.

“Since I came (to Miami) with a musical project about Édith Piaf, in this same theater, and I toured three years in Mexico, Spain and the United States”.

Now, in Papá Cuatro, she will narrate a musical journey, which includes her incarnation of the queen of Latin soul, La Lupe, who in 1966 recorded the album La Lupe y su alma venezolana.

“It unites us that we ended up being artists in exile. She became the first female singer of Fania (All Star)”, she says about the interpreter of one of the most popular songs of the Latin American pentagram of the 60’s: “Puro teatro”.

But, she points out, that she will not sing songs by La Lupe, but will narrate “the anecdote” through “a repertoire of traditional Venezuelan songs”.

The artist feels “an enormous privilege” for this reunion with artists with whom she performed several times in her native country.

According to Semprún, harpist Betancourt arrives in Miami from Boston, la bandolista Bandola from New York, drummer Herrera, like her, is based in South Florida, and Souki, the director, lives in Canada.

“The cuatrista is the one who comes from farthest away, from Ireland, from Dublin, he came especially for this show,” she says.

“It is a work that praises virtuous Venezuelan musicians who in recent years have sought their luck in different territories with very different results. In some cases they have enjoyed vertiginous success and in others, they have had to face paths not exempt of difficulties”, Souki points out.

The Miami New Drama company says in a statement that Papá Cuatro is “a play created and presented by immigrants for immigrants and for anyone who wishes to live an authentically Venezuelan musical experience.

Asked what documentary theater means to her, Semprún says that “it is a genre that mixes all stage work with reality, historical documents and real references.”

“It is usually done as multimedia theater, it is neither a musical as such nor a documentary, it is a hybrid”, she remarks about this play that will be on stage until July 31.

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