Friday, December 16, 2011

Dudamel versus Serenata Guyanesa

A very nasty comment by "anonymous" in my post on Xmas music make me take the unusual step or publicly replying as an excellent opportunity to measure the survival of artists in fascist regimes like our own today.
In Venezuela there is no copyright valid.  The regime paid long ago some lip service when Microsoft launched a strong world wide campaign in defense of intellectual property and nothing followed, all was promptly forgotten.  Not to mention that there are those in the regime that think that working with your mind alone is not a revolutionary attitude.  As a consequence today Venezuelan artists cannot make a decent living if they depend solely on the Venezuelan market.  They may sell a couple of thousand of copies of a new CD (to people like me that condemn piracy for artists) but quickly the pirated copies will be sold by the thousands and thousands through pirated sellers in the streets, for a tiny fraction of course of the original.

This is the case of Serenata Guayanesa, a superb group of Venezuelan folk music, which has done a great work of rescuing many tunes and styles that were unknown to most of us, way before Chavez came to power.  But now their style has gone out of fashion as reggaeton has taken over supreme over the country (even Salsa is under threat).  That, plus piracy, and you can understand why the Serenata Guyanesa group has been vying for some government support.  Before Chavez they could make a decent living at best (no Hollywood like mansion and swimming pool for them).  But since Chavez allowed piracy so his hordes could get access to stuff for cheap to nothing, the Serenata simply cannot make ends meet on their work as even concert sessions are on the way out, not only because of fashion, but also because of insecurity when you attend them, the cost of holding them today, etc, etc....

Although I am certainly not happy that they caved in (after more than 10 years, it must be noted), I really cannot be mad at them.  But I can be mad at Gustavo Dudamel who is now in my shit list of chavistas, doomed to suffer the von Karayan syndrome for the rest of his life, the more so when the crimes of chavismo are finally fully revealed.

There are two people today noted for the youth orchestral system of Venezuela, the founder Abreu and his biggest star so far, Dudamel.  Abreu is working for the remain of his life is to preserve the system he devoted his life to, trying desperately to avoid a chavista take over which would mark its demise as it is the case of everything chavismo touches.  Thus Abreu did nothing different than what he did in the past: kowtow to the power in place. He will pay a price for that but at least he has an excuse and when the regime meets its defenestration we will find a way to redeem him.

But Dudamel has no redemption ahead of him because he does not depend on the regime for his livelihood as he is now an international star, Music Director of the L.A. symphony.  He could have found many ways to make his support to the Youth Orchestral system discreet but no.  As times goes by it seems that his relationship to the regime grows and that he takes even pleasure in it.  Some people simply cannot resit the lure of raw power.  Other rising stars of the system did not succumb like Dudamel did: think for example of the Venezuelan directors now in place at Oslo or La Fenice in Venice.  I do not see them playing for Chavez on a regular basis (nor hinting that Dudamel is "sacrificing" himself so that they can stay out of to rule).  I suppose that maybe someday we may learn that it was a plot all along by Abreu and Dudamel to sacrifice themselves for the befit of the system, but that ultimate condemnation of a passed regime had better be good if Dudamel wants his good name back in Venezuela.  I, for one, will not be buying records or concert tickets from him ever again (not to mention that I have my own artistic questions about how brilliant Dudamel may be).

Since at some point the regime is going to be ousted (they always do, it is only a matter of time) it is already important for us to discuss such things because we need to settle the criteria which will allow forgiveness or punishment of its collaborators, be they Dudamel or Ramirez at PDVSA.  We need to understand the reasons of why they did such collaboration and accept that somethings can be crossed over and forgotten, but some cannot.  Certainly Dudamel cannot be sent to jail for his own hubris and immaturity, but public contempt is in store for him, without the need of a trial.  He is still in time to find his way out of his own self created mess, though he certainly can remain in the wealthy left of L.A., as disconnected from the reality of the world a group as you can find.  They do go well together, bbq at the Penn compound included.


Special note for anonymous on his blasting "el norte".  You missed the point completely.  That song is about the travails of emigration, about the dashed hopes that go with it.  It was written at a time where NY was as much our exile route as Miami (it is not any more for Venezuelans).  But the song could have been equally well written for Madrid or London or Dallas or....  If they chose New York it was to make sure folks at home understood better because all of us had been or knew someone one who had been to New York.  True, it is a little bit strong at first, but it certainly is not ANTI New York.  It is ANTI emigration and New York is the unfortunate prop.

So, if you are a New Yorker do not take it personally and be sure to understand a text, not only in words but in context and humor before you trash it as idiotically as you did.  Thank you.


  1. Daniel, looks like anonymous touched a nerve perhaps even a main artery. All jokes a side, I couldn't agree with you more!

  2. Jorge

    Well, a blog is also its readers. If they want an interesting blog they also need to raise interesting issues ;)

  3. Anonymous5:53 PM

    I disagree with your post Daniel. First off, Dudamel has never said he supports Chavez or is a Chavista. Second, he is doing what it takes to support "el sistema". Finally, if anybody bears the responsibility for people perceiving Dudamel as having "sold out" it is not Dudamel. It is the regime itself which has polarized venezuelan society to the extreme.

    Put simply, in the balance, he is doing the right thing by helping preserve "el sistema" for posterity despite the proclivity of the Chavez regime to destroy anything it touches.

  4. Anonymous

    (are you the same one as i referred to?)

    And your basis for that? He never gave concerts? He made some HR declarations at some point?

    There is a point when you cannot pretend you do not know what is going on in a country. People with much, much more at risk than Dudamel have crossed that line.


    As for your second paragraph, Abreu is in charge of that and I was quite clear on my blog. Read it again before pulling stuff off your ass. I will not begrudge an occasional participation of Dudamel, but enough is enough.

  5. Jorge

    I suppose you are tight, it hit a nerve. But after the UCV attack last week and so many people silent, well... after all, did not Dudamel start at the Aula Magna?

  6. The Dudamel thing gets to me as you say he is popular enough without Chavez's help....and by the way- while I think he is quite good I can think of better.There is one in Europe( his name escapes me at the moment as I have a bad memory) and right here in NC we have a much less famous one, but even more exciting guy: his name is William Henry Curry.Unfortunately not a youtube musician.....anyway, back to Dudamel....I personally know some of those who are close to Dudamel, though I don't know him personally- and they are all bought- out as well....the whole scene disgusts me.

    It is unfortunate that some people never learn the beauty and power of anonymity....they never learn the power of personal dignity or the meaning of authenticity.

    I don't support Dudamel and his ilk either!!!

    Anonymous, there are greater sacrifices to make than the "sistema", and do you really believe that at this point that they are really supporting the sistema?

  7. Anonymous7:23 PM

    mon cher, long time no write....
    I agree 100% with your post...
    on the copyright issue, I can tell you with knowledge of the issue, know of many Venezuelans artists, who had to resign to SACVEN or whatever name they have now... well, they had to retired all their info and authorship from this organization so they could get their fair treatments on royalties and copyright protection of their works...these artist had to move their artistry to BMI, ASCAP in the US, and the ASGAE in Spain..this also means, they have left the country as well...obviously. they all had said to me how SACVEN sucks and they have no protection of their authorship in Venezuela.

    on the subject of Dudamel, I agree with you, his attitude is despicable, he is in fact the VonKarajan of our times, some in in the music enviroment call him VonDudamel, he' snot the only one, I know of several artists who had sold their soul....

    have you seen this article?

    sorry fo rmy absence Daniel, un fuerte abrazo...cuidate


  8. Charly7:25 PM

    Daniel, on the subject of "There is a point when you cannot pretend you do not know what is going on in a country", here is an interesting article I bumped into yesterday. Sorry for those who do not read Spanish.

  9. correfoc

    nice to see you back. what is your excuse?

  10. correfoc

    I did not know about the Von Dudamel. Quite appropriate.

  11. Anonymous8:17 PM

    sorry mon cher..
    my excuse??...too busy, wife lost job, working lots, and trying to find jobs in a different city...we want to move to a bigger place...tired of New England..

    also, I guess I kind of got tired of reading about Chacumbele 12 years after all...and nothing happens, the MUD is a joke, and visiting the country briefly in September, made me leave all hopes of the country to get better,--society is extremely broken, no super candidate from the MUD will ever fix that...

    un fuerte abrazo

  12. Daniel my dear,
    thank you, thank you! I couldn't agree more with you on Dudamel.

    And if he's not chavista, I'm a 17 year old Chinese girl -or something! Why on earth does he perform for the regime in any given occasion? with his widest smile that is!!!

    Von Dudamel he is.

  13. "But I can be mad at Gustavo Dudamel who is now in my shit list of chavistas, doomed to suffer the von Karayan syndrome for the rest of his life, the more so when the crimes of chavismo are finally fully revealed."

    Indeed. A vuelo'e'pajaro, you can see a some similarities between Gustavito and Chavito: both obviously suffer from incurable megalomania, by now, one thinks he's Bethoven, the other is sure he's the reincarnation of Bolivar and Jesus Christ.. both full of crap. And none of the 2 pendejos can sing, mind you.

  14. Anonymous3:33 AM

    Los artistas nunca deberian meterse en politica, pero tienen que comer igualito, ¿como hacen si no encuentran trabajo fuera de su pais o no quieren exiliarse?, A nosotros nos toca obviar este enfoque y solo pensar y apreciar su arte. De otra manera los destruimos como hace el regimen con todo lo que toca. La Maga Lee

  15. Anonymous7:46 AM


    Before you call me an idiot for expressing my "nasty" opinion (btw, I expected better from you than using ad hominem attacks), maybe you should read my post again. It is full of praise of the MUSIC of the Serenata, in case you didn't get that part, and deservedly so, because their style is indeed unique in the world.

    The fact that they can't make money anymore with their music is deplorable, but certainly not unique. The sale of CDs is pretty much dead in the developed world, since Napster and then iTunes etc. came along. If it is the Serenata's style that is no longer liked, it is also not unique to Venezuela. Try to sell "Disco" anywhere in the world. So the typewriter and slide rule argument is simply not valid.

    So what does one do? Well you either reinvent yourself (probably impossible with the kind of music of the Serenata), or you find something else to make a living. How many people in all kind of obsolete professions didn't HAVE TO do exactly that?

    Or you sell out to a dictator's pleasure, which is what they did. I would bet that you, Daniel, would try anything, before selling out to Chavez, even if it meant great hardship for you. Actually I think you would never sell out to him no matter what. And why is it not ok for Dudamel, but no problem with the Serenata? If your last argument holds, than eventually all desperate Venezuelans will sell out to the Dictator, which is exactly what he wants in the first place.

    Going to the lyrics of the "El Norte es una Quimera", here is a link to them:

    In the following verse, do you find "que atrocidad" amusing?
    "El norte es una quimera ¡Que atrocidad!"

    Then the chorus is a real jewel in offending N.Y.
    "Ay, Nueva York 
    No me agradas con el oro 
    Tu ley seca la rechazo 
    No me agrada y la deploro 
    A Nueva York yo más no voy 
    Allá no hay "Berro" 
    no hay vino y no hay amor"

    Ridiculous and offensive....particularly to the couple of Million Latins living their, with pride. And on and on it goes....and part of it is pure envy towards those who made it.
    As a contrast, how about the positive message of the lyrics of the song "New York, New York", performed by Liza Minelli and Frank Sinatra: "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere, It's up to you, New York, New York." Why is "El Norte es una Quimera" basically a sour grapes song? Shouldn't Venezuelans also be offended, because they can never do better than a dishwasher in NY, according to it's lyrics?

    We will never know, but I guarantee you that Chavez insisted that THIS particular song be included in the repertoir, because it fits his anti-US rants perfectly, including ridiculing the English language. I am sure that the Serenata members would have had better judgement. And please, Daniel, get off of your preferred commentator belittling high horse when you run out of arguments. I never missed the point of this song as far as the lyrics and the TWO connotations we are discussing here are concerned, not when I wrote the first comment and not now. Maybe you did. Even if I had, what does that have to do with the Serenata selling out to Chavez?

    Sure there is some funny stuff, like "cajas y cajero" and "platos y platero" in the lyrics, yet equally, it is undeniable that there is some nasty offensive stuff in them, inappropriate to be played in the host city of New York.

  16. To the Anonymous who finds the SG song offensive: it's a relatively old song, and I assumed it's referring to Prohibition times. The author not only failed to get rich in NY as he naively hoped; he missed the drinks too! Then he goes back to his hometown and just complains about his experiences to his friends, who've never been abroad, trying to impress them and making himself look good. Of course, he just comes out as a bit of a self-aggrandizing buffoon. I find the lyrics amusing, although perhaps the humor is not intentional. I hope you understand the context a bit better and find the song less offensive now.

  17. Anonymous,

    There are so many daily insults to the US,coming from everywhere, that I think we have to pick and chose our battles.

    We are all boringly up to date on other people's opinions of the weaknesses of US society, and it really would behoove others to concentrate on a fewof their own weaknesses, as alas US bashing has become the boring and endless scapegoat of cowards because nobody gets bashed much for bashing the US( ERGO its attraction to the cowardly)......and artists of all sorts fall into that easy money making trap as well.

    Perhaps the classical music crowd with its generally higher IQ stands out as an exception to this boring rule.

    I try to limit most of my defenses to important lies, rather than attack silly opinions like the one in this song about NY.

  18. manuel

    thank you for replying.

  19. While Dudamel has never said he backs the regime, he has come back a long way a few times to direct the youth Orchestra in a celebration of some heroic Chavista date or celebration. To me that is an open endorsement of the regime.

  20. Anonymous1:48 AM

    Well, have to say I'm with "nasty anonymous" over there. For a while I have suspected SG is pro-Chavista or, at the very least sympathetic. No definitive proof, but it's kind of out there.

    As talented as they may be, I cannot and will never endorse anyone who supports the regime in any capacity.

    He may be reading too much into the whole "El Norte es una Quimera" stuff, but his arguments are not entirely without merit either.

    The Gremlin

  21. Anonymous9:05 PM

    Someday the country will need to be rebuilt. Some institutions will not need to be rebuilt from scratch (USB, UCV, "el sistema"). We will be grateful those institutions have not been destroyed in some cases because individuals like Dudamel and Abreu had the acumen to negotiate the preservation of those institutions.

    By the way Daniel, even though I am a long time reader of your blog and I find your opinions interesting, I rarely, if ever comment. I find it disappointing that the one time I do, you find it necessary to characterize my opinion as "out of my ass". I would hope you agree that when the time comes to rebuild Venezuela, we will have to be less offensive and more tolerant.


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