Esmeraldas blossoms in Benjamín Vanegas. His voice blends an ancestral quivering and the youthful energy of the streets, undoubtedly one of Ecuador’s finest. His marimba is made of PVC pipes, instead of the usual bamboo canes.
He began his musical adventure like most Esmeraldeños: with salsa, son, ballads that people wanted to hear. But now his quest is different.
“I’m rescuing our musical past. And in a sense, I’m also rescuing myself, ” he says with a smile.
Faced with the radio waves’ discrimination against sounds unfamiliar to what’s in fashion today, Benjamin knows that a battle takes place in everyone’s soul: It’s all-too-easy to go along with the flow of the masses. Yet, at the same time, it is difficult to erase who one really is, and where one really comes from.
“If you seek, you find,” is, at least, his hope…
“Play one for the road,” we ask. Benjamin has lots of music to share. His latest work transcends the borders of his home and neighborhood, and invites us to travel inward. With dry strikes at his marimba (the ones he’s been constructing since he was a youngster) arrives a long-lost ghost he calls Juan Manuel: “A soul of the 1800s… when the planet was still green / when a river was my universe / and the voice of my mother… a science…”.