Black Atlantic: Betsayda Machado y la Parranda el Clavo (Venezuela)
Nearly one-tenth of Venezuela's population is descended from African ancestors brought to the region to work its rich cocoa fields. These Afro-Venezuelans developed a deep if often overlooked cultural heritage, with distinct religious and folk traditions and music that sounds like nothing else in the Americas. At long last, those sounds have started to find their way to stages around the world thanks to the virtuoso singer Betsayda Machado and her backing band La Parranda El Clavo, a drum-and-voice ensemble with airtight, emphatic harmonies and undeniably ecstatic rhythms.
For three decades, La Parranda El Clavo performed primarily at village ceremonies and celebrations. Machado, dubbed "The Black Voice of Barlovento," sang with them in the late 1980s. She then moved to Caracas and built a career that ultimately brought the entire group to the United States for the first time in 2017. Their long-delayed stateside debut was unanimously heralded: NPR called it "one of the most joyful shows in years," while The New York Times noted, "This was the kind of group that world music fans have always been thrilled to discover: vital, accomplished, local, unplugged, deeply rooted."