Recording a Cuatro Master…in a McDonalds

Raul Landaeta & his daughter Vanessa performed for us in a quiet dining area at the popular fast food chain in Port-of-Spain!

We had arranged for a meeting with cuatro maestro Raul Landaeta at the Venezuelan embassy in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. The plan was to record an interview with him about the cuatro and have him show us a few things, maybe play a few songs. But we made one silly mistake. We didn’t check to see if the embassy had a dress code. Of course they did have a policy in place, and with temperatures over 90 degrees in the capital city that day, all three of us were in shorts, which was one of the things they didn’t allow in the embassy.

So we walked a few blocks in Port-of-Spain, looking for possible places to play some music, and found that the top floor of the local McDonalds restaurant was empty, air-conditioned, and pretty quiet! We asked to speak to a manager, who was more than happy to help, and just like that: we had the perfect spot to record Raul and his daughter Vanessa, who was accompanying him on the violin.

Here’s one of the songs we recorded, “El Pajarillo,” which really shows off the technical skill of young Vanessa, and the unbelievable talent of a cuatro maestro at work.

Robert Munro shows us ‘El Gavilan’ in Joropo and Parang

Cuatro player Robert Munro

ATWR visited the cuatro maestro Robert Munro at his home in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad to meet him. While sipping on rum & cokes, his apprentice and friend Dominic Thompson arrived for an impromptu performance of several songs, the last of which Robert showed us the way he originally heard the Venezuelan Joropo “El Gavilan”, and then plays his Trinidad parang rendition of the same song. Recorded in the fall of 2014. Robert Munro passed away in the spring of 2019.

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