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The first part of the first documentary on the history and music of the Puerto Rican cuatro
Nuestro Cuatro, Vol. 1: 1493-1959
The Puerto Ricans and their Stringed Instruments
NEW EDITION with 30 minutes of extra footage added
Video DVD, 104 minutes, in Spanish with available English subtitles
Produced by the Puerto Rican Cuatro Project
Produced, directed and scripted by Juan Sotomayor, William Cumpiano and Wil Echevarría
Read about Volume 2 here
Traces the origins of the jíbaro, an ancient people who created the earliest expressions of Puerto Rican country music.
A Bouquet of Instruments:
Musicologists, musicians and artisans describe the families of Puerto Rican stringed instruments: the different varieties of cuatros, tiples and bordonúas--and about their most distinguished players.
English subtitles are available on DVD
The Music of the Fields:
Old cuatro masters show us the different musical genres that were once heard across the Puerto Rican countryside during olden times. We see a rare recreation of a "baile de seis." The venerated cuatristas Maso Rivera and Iluminado Dávila talk about and demonstrate the different forms of the seis, the music of the "acabes," the harvest-end celebrations, and the use of the cuatro within the sacred rites that were once observed across the countryside.
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The Golden Age:
A historic narrative of how a feeling of unique nationality is born and spreads across Puerto Rico during the 19th century, and how the Danza, a fusion of country and city music--played on the native instruments--is transformed into emblems of protest and opposition to Spanish colonial repression.
"Somebody has to go":
"There are too many people here. Somebody has to go." This is a quote from a United States military commander at the beginning of the 20th century. What followed were terrible years of hurricanes, earthquakes, plagues and the economic disintegration of the once-thriving Island following the 1898 invasion-- events which propelled the historic migrations out of the Island. The new emigrants keep the dying musical traditions alive and with them as they take the native stringed instruments and musical memories with them to the new Diaspora in the United States, even as far as Hawaii.
Describes the growing impact of the radio on the cultural development of the Island and the cuatro's eventual acceptance as the national instrument. The great master cuatrista Ladislao Martínez keeps the ancient musical traditions alive on the Island, broadcasting his numerous and beautiful compositions on the first radio program on the Island, "Industrias Nativas." The personality, skills and achievements of the great maestro is described on camera by the great elder musicians that once played along with him.
The Teatro Puerto Rico:
In Puerto Rico, the new governer of the recently-established Free Associated State, Luis Muñoz Marín --fearing the vanishing of the Island's cultural values--inaugurates a new Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. At the same time, thousands of Puerto Ricans in New York throng to see jibaro troubadours such as Ramito, La Calandria and the Jibarito de Lares, through the numerous ethnic theatres in the great city. Puerto Rico itself now awaits a new rebirth, like the ones that came before, of the traditional music forms, one that will flower anew during the second half of the 20th century and into the current day.