The accordion player Gilberto Alejandro Durán Díaz, who was born on February 9, 1919, 105 years ago, starred in a memorable episode at the Vallenata Legend Festival in 1987, the first King of Kings, when in the final in the middle of the execution of the bidding of his author ‘Pedazo de accordión’, declared that he had disqualified himself. In other words, he served as a jury of his own interpretation.
That happened in Plaza Alfonso López, Francisco El Hombre stage, on the night of April 29 of that year, when he stopped playing his accordion exactly 17 seconds after starting. Then, he approached the microphone and with the sincerity that characterized him, he expressed: “People, I have just disqualified myself”.
The surprise was general among the public and especially the jury made up of Lorenzo Miguel Morales Herrera, Gustavo Gutiérrez Cabello, Ovidio Granados Melo, Hugues Martínez Sarmiento and Armando Zabaleta Guevara, who at his words asked him to repeat the puja air.
In that sense, the singer-songwriter Gustavo Gutiérrez Cabello, in this regard, indicated: “That time I was surprised by Alejo Durán’s sincerity because it was almost imperceptible. I don’t know if he was too rigorous to comply with the festival’s rules, but with his fellow jury members we asked him to continue doing the interpretation, a matter that he rejected at first, then he accepted and ended up applauded.”.
In turn, the famous accordion player Ovidio Granados recalled the matter. “Alejo was in one piece. He said that and no one who had failed in the bass when playing the puja took it from there. An unexpected moment because it was quick and not very noticeable. In the end he was convinced to play the accordion again and he did so with the authenticity characteristic of him alongside his companions,” noted Granados.
For his part, Luis Armando Alandete Ortega, who served as presenter of the event, alongside Jaime Pérez Parodi, told what happened at that moment in the face of Alejo Durán’s unexpected statement: “What an honor to have been at the Vallenato Festival for 25 years, and it was precisely the presentation of maestro Alejo that corresponded to me, because with Jaime Pérez we took one and one. When he began to play the fourth air, the puja, from one moment to the next he closed his accordion, and with his strong voice he said that he had disqualified himself.”.
Continuing with his story he noted: “We were all silent and even surprised because it had never happened before that a contestant on stage said something like that, and even less so from a veteran accordion player with all the experience. Although he could have also made a mistake and stepped on the wrong button. Also, I thought it was a sound problem and I asked the technician, Omairo Oñate, to check, as he did.”.
In the end, the jury delivered its verdict, naming Nicolás ‘Colacho’ Mendoza Daza as the winner, leaving that fact of folkloric honesty of maestro Alejo Durán for history.
Afterwards ‘El Negro’ Alejo, at the awards ceremony, once again demonstrated his human quality by placing the crown on the first King of Kings Nicolás Elías ‘Colacho’ Mendoza, and congratulating him on the important triumph.
Several days after the event, Alejo Durán returned to Planeta Rica, Córdoba, a town where he lived for many years, being received with honors and even having a symbolic crown placed on him. Hundreds of telegrams even arrived at his house congratulating him on his honesty.
This was the man from Magdalena by birth, from Caesarea by decree and from Cordoba at heart, who never took a drink of rum, because he knew how to manage his emotions, with love being his greatest strength, which he often drew on the vast coastal territory.
‘La Cacica’ exalted Alejo Durán
Consuelo Araujonoguera was the first journalist to interview Gilberto Alejandro Durán Díaz, the day after he was crowned King Vallenato in 1968. She painted him from head to toe and told the world that they were facing glory with a accordion to the chest.
Thus he wrote: “When Alejo Durán stood on the stage next to the wide rectangle of Plaza Alfonso López, that was when we had the exact notion that the Vallenata Legend Festival had begun, and started well. Two nights later in the grand finale, ‘La cachucha bacana’, ‘Elvirita’, ‘Alicia adorada’ and ‘Pedazo de accordión’, were just the musical notification of the collective apotheosis that since then enshrined him forever in the affection and devotion of the people.
Continuing with his story he noted: “From there, one of the greatest living myths of vallenato arose and this white legend that surrounds the Black King began to take shape. From that April 30, 1968 onwards, glory began to roll around that humble and simple man, who with a single stroke of his prodigious fingers on the keyboard saw his simplicity turned into fame and his humility changed into greatness. From that moment, Alejo Durán and the Vallenata Legend Festival formed a perfect symbiosis, a sentimental duo, a relationship so deep and certain that one cannot be analyzed without the other, nor can one refer to the person without making obligatory mention of the contest.”.
The humble man who only asked that his piece of accordion be taken to the cemetery, that each song was mostly a love letter addressed with his own name, remains alive through his example and musical work that like the downpours of his town, El Paso, they resist escampar because with the strength of his voice from the sky he always sings to his piece of accordion.
By John Corner Vanegas