Combining Music and His Latin Roots to Promote Multicultural Understanding
Since taking up the cuatro at age five, Jorge Glem has incorporated Venezuela and its cultural heritage into each chord. Today, Jorge is known worldwide as a master of the cuatro, a musical instrument that is a part of the guitar family. It is smaller in size than a guitar, but larger than a ukelele, and – as its name suggests – has four strings. For Jorge, his purpose for playing is to present the Venezuelan cuatro as a universal instrument.
“I personally dream and hope that our national instrument becomes known worldwide and is recognized the same way as the violin, the piano or the guitar and that it is used in different musical genres with its distinct sound that easily blends with other styles,” says Jorge.
In addition to spreading the sound of the cuatro from stages and through speaking around the world, the award-winning musician began promoting a movement called #4CuatroMusic on social media back in 2017, generating thousands of interesting posts in a few weeks.
“My intention is not to be a celebrity, but rather to introduce and share the Venezuelan cuatro with as many people as possible,” says Jorge.
He has shared the stage with world renowned musicians to fuse the instrument with other genres, such as jazz, salsa, bluegrass, rock, and pop. Jorge believes that the cuatro’s journey to becoming the national instrument of Venezuela and gaining relevance on an international scale has taken years of hardwork and the talent of many devoted musicians, artists, journalists, and historians who have come before him.
“I have great respect for my fellow musicians and cuatro players. I myself don’t want to be labeled as the best or the most important,” Jorge humbly shares. “In my opinion, I am just a piece of this working machine.”
Growing up, it was hard not to be influenced by the four-string tunes; after all, Jorge says the instrument was a part of more than 90% of cultural events in Venezuela. Its heritage comes from Indiginous, Spanish, and African roots. The sound was influenced from around the globe, so Jorge wants to share the cuatro’s music with the globe. To him, it is a sound that conveys joy.
“I felt the need to bring a smile to people’s faces and make them feel joy the same way my father did when he sang and played the cuatro.”
Jorge believes music is a transformative mode of communication.
“Music is vital in culture because it is a universal language that allows us to communicate our feelings and sensations. Making music or listening to it is a type of catharsis through which people can transform their feelings, energies and reactions … [I]t can become something that feeds the soul,'' muses Jorge. “Is there a better way to channel one’s reactions than through music?!”
For Jorge, being Latino is a source of pride, and playing the cuatro is a way to show his roots, as well as to connect to other cultures.”
“At the end of the day, borders are just sketched on the surface; real roots come from deep within the ground,” says Jorge. “It is these roots that unite us and – along with the sentiments of passion and pride – they bond us to the roots of the same tree.”
Jorge hopes that sharing the songs, music, and culture of Venezuela will promote understanding, especially at a time when there are many refugees and asylum seekers from Venezuela in need of understanding.
“As a Venezuelan, it breaks my heart to see how so many Venezuelans who were prospering had to sell all their belongings just to be able to eat and have drinking water,” Jorge explains. “After living in Venezuela, one of the most prosperous countries in modern history with one of the largest oil reserves, they were forced to pack everything into a backpack and go in search of a better life in various foreign countries.”
Jorge is grateful to be a part of the One Journey family, who he says shares messages of hope and elevates the complex stories of each refugee who had the life yanked from them by dictators and mafias, and who had to leave their lives behind and start from scratch
“The important thing is for all of us to be aware that we must stay united through love, honesty, kindness, and the desire to prosper. It’s important to send a clear message that honest people should remain united regardless of race, creed, economic status, and culture.”
Listen to his music below and follow his sounds, tunes, and upcoming show schedules on his YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels. To see Jorge perform live, join us for The Unity Concert in Miami, Florida on November 12 at Paseo de las Artes at Regency Miami Airport. RSVP for this free event HERE.