Alberto “Beto” Jamaica is one of the leading vallenato and cumbia players in Colombia. Since winning the prestigious Leyenda Vallenata Festival competition in 2006 he has become known as Rey Vallenato Colombia (“The Vallenato King”). His music is a vibrant mix of cumbia, paseo, porro all wrapped into his infectious accordion driven vallenato.
Vallenato is one of Colombia’s most popular folk musics. Native to Colombia’s Caribbean Coast it literally translates as “born in the valley”, the valley being the one found between Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Serranía de Perijá.
Originally the music of herders who combined the tradition of Spanish juglares or minstrels with the griot tradition of West Africa, vallenato historically served a dual purpose. As they traveled from village to village the herders would entertain themselves by singing and playing guitars or the indigenous gaita flutes.
They would also use song to deliver news and messages to the villages. In the late 1800s accordion was introduced replacing the gaita. Vallenato encompasses a variety of rhythms: paseo vallenato, merengue, puya, son and tambora. Beto Jamaica contemporizes the vallenato tradition by adding electric bass, congas and timbales to the traditional lineup of accordion, guacharaca (a tube-shaped percussion instrument scraped with a metal “fork”) and caja vallenata (small goat leather drum) while never loosing site of the music’s roots.