Our Diaspora Helps Venezuelan Musicians Become More International

Like with many artists who have visited Italian, Lebanese or Irish audiences in the metropolises of immigration for decades, Venezuelan musicians are making a living out of playing concerts all across the wide geography of our migration

Photo: WeGO

When you go to a Venezuelan artist’s concert in Madrid something interesting happens. As soon as you get in line you start hearing a different accent, the typical marked s that defines the Spanish accent disappears and the mandibuleo from eastern Caracas becomes more present. 

It makes sense. The approximate 6 million emigrated Venezuelans must include lots of musicians. Groups like Viniloversus, Anakena, Los Mesoneros, La Vida Boheme, and a long list of musicians have left the country, with Mexico, the United States, and Spain is home to many artists in the Venezuelan diaspora.

That puts our artists in a weird position. According to Luis Jiménez, composer and frontman of Los Mesoneros, Lagos and Arawato: “Here in Mexico we’re starting to get our own public, but as soon as we go on tour we mainly see Venezuelans living abroad.” Santiago De La Fuente, one of the two frontmen of Anakena, has had the same experience: “Most people in the concerts we do abroad are either Venezuelans or invited by their Venezuelan friends. We don’t have an exact number but it’s pretty evident.” 

This makes concerts by Venezuelan artists a truly magical experience. Since 2019, I’ve seen four Venezuelan artists and bands here in Madrid: Anakena, Yordano, Lasso, and Okills (and I’ll see Los Amigos Invisibles in April, if the pandemic allows it). Each of the concerts has been a communal experience. We all feel at home for a minute there. But it’s also really evident that Spaniards have little interest in these shows.

Of course, there are exceptions. Jiménez says that Lasso has gained a loyal following in Mexico, especially since the launch of Un millón como tú. De La Fuente talks about how Rawayana has become a staple of the Latin American alternative scene, probably in part thanks to the collaborations with artists like Natalia Lafourcade, and their constant touring in the region. 

Of course, there are some artists who broke out of the Venezuelan scene even before they became famous in the country.

It’s hard not to think of Arca and her big mark on modern pop and electronic music. The Venezuelan composer and producer first came to prominence through her dark ambient compositions that got her to produce two records for Björk. And we can’t forget that David Byrne discovered Los Amigos Invisibles and introduced them to the North American public when he signed them with his company Luaka Bop back in the ‘90s and helped them become a cult band in many places around the world.

Of course, the main way to gain new fans is to release new music and play more shows, but 2020 and 2021 didn’t make going on tour to promote new material an easy task. That might be why, now that fear for the omicron wave seems to be waning a little, many artists, Venezuelan and international, seem to be lining up to go on tour. Desorden Publico, C4 Trio, Los Amigos Invisibles, Zapato3, and Anakena have announced various international dates, especially in Latin America and the U.S. In the same way, groups like La Vida Bohème, Okills (who are also part of the lineup of this year’s ViveLatino festival in Mexico), and Lagos have been giving clues of their plans to tour on their social media accounts but haven’t confirmed dates yet.

It also helps that concerts are returning to Venezuela. Los Mesoneros, Anakena and Lagos (Jiménez’s urban pop “side” project) played in the country in the last months of 2021. “It’s great to have home-court advantage, for people to know all your songs. The Venezuelan public has been there from the start and grown up with us,” says Jiménez, who mentions that being able to go back home gives them more energy to go back to playing small bars in other countries.

For now, the internationalization of Venezuelan music has been a slower process than our gastronomy, but as long as musicians keep trying and playing their international audience will keep growing. As Jiménez puts it: “A musician’s job is to play, and that’s what we should do, play, play and keep playing.”