Venezuela folk music and dances have been greatly influenced by the customs, traditions, and religious beliefs of the three races: White, Indians and Black, which constitute Venezuela's population as a whole.
Popular dances of Venezuela are to a great extent the product of creole (criollo) culture. Nevertheless, typical Indian dances and other signs of almost pure African origins may still be found in some areas.
The origin of Venezuela's musical instruments can be traced back to the indigenous, European and African cultures. All three of them have influenced our popular music. Before the arrival of the Spaniards the indians used such things as carved bone flutes, clay whistles, sea shell trumpets and jingles, and maracas.
During the colonization process and the arrival of the African slaves, several different instruments were incorporated into the popular musical tradition such as cuatro, violin, guitar and drums.*
As the national dance of Venezuela, joropo is performed anywhere throughout the country, Lively, merry and syncopated it is Spanish in origin and Venezuelan in feeling.
On hearing the rattling maracas and the rythmic plucking of the "cuatro" (a four string guitar) counterpointed by the melodious harp, any Venezuelan will feel the urge to tap and whirl.
The dance is for couples and has as many as thirty-six variants of the basic step. There are half a dozen different types of joropo, such as Corrido Tuyero and Golpe Aragueño. Today the joropo has become so popular that no ball dance would be complete without it. Wherever Venezuelans congregate, they dance joropo.
The most famous joropo of our days is "Alma Llanera" (soul of the plains) by the late composer Pedro Elías Gutiérrez.*
Red devils of Yare
The red dancing devils of Yare being their traditional and annual battle against the forces of righteousness on Corpus Christi Day, is one of the most unique and colorful religious ceremonies of the Christian World.
There is, of course, no need for alarm because the outcome of the battle is also traditional. The forces of righteousness will triumph, but not until after a full day of strenuous opposition on the part of Satan's henchmen.
The scene of this momentous struggle will be the little town of San Francisco de Yare, about 35 miles south of Caracas, which is a magnet for visitors from all over the world on that day.
No one is sure when this ritual originated, but it has been an annual event in San Francisco de Yare. Probably it dates from long before the giant bell in the village church was cast, in 1711, two hundred and fifty-seven years ago.*
* Source: Permanent Mission of Venezuela to the OAS.
•culled from www.oas.org