The King of Vallenato, Rafael Escalona, passed away this week in Bogotá. He can be considered one of the most well-loved Colombians and his name is referred almost as legendary and part of the identity of a Latin American culture at the same level of what is Celia Cruz, Carlos Gardel and other figures of the artistic Latino world.
Vallenato, that Colombian music genre that conquered also countries like Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador and even the States, have two names in history: the first one seems a figure of magic surrealism: Francisco el Hombre (or Francis the Man if you prefer a translation), considered the founder of Vallenato, without a real historical evidence of his existence. The second one is Rafael Escalona, which name is known by every single Colombian and Vallenato lover in Latin America.
He died last Wednesday 14th of May at the age of 81 in the cold capital, miles away from his original town of Patillal, where he was born on 27 of May of 1926 destined to fill the hearts of his countrymen with stories and dreams by his compositions. Patillal is in the Cesar State, the capital of Vallenato and no far from Aracataca, the hometown of writer Gabriel García Márquez and photographer Leo Matiz Espinoza.
Escalona was already weak of health since the end of 2008. He was hospitalized in different moments, while the national press followed his conditions. A man used to national and international recognitions, Escalona enjoyed the appreciation of many friends and admirers that remember the letters of the songs he wrote and that were played by artists like Carlos Vives.
“Oyeme morenita te vas a quedar muy sola, porque ayer dijo el radio que abrieron el liceo; como es estudiante ya se va Escalona, pero de recuerdo te deja un paseo…”
These are the words of one of his most popular songs and most Colombians know them very well. Translate it is like trying to translate a poem of El Cid. The songs are also a part of his own biography, but a level of universalism that identified the Latin American elements in the daily life, transcendental philosophy and hopes.
The last intern of Escalona to the hospital endured only a week. Last Wednesday his heart, full of those unforgettable notes of music, stopped forever to enter in the history of Colombia and Latin America.
Escalona was also a friend of Gabriel García Márquez and the proof is that he is mentioned in One Hundred Years of Solitude.
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