“Daughter of Light” is a moving documentary that looks at the life and music of 83-year-old Colombian drummer and singer Graciela Salgado, a member of the Alegres Ambulancias music group, reports El Heraldo.
Shot in the exotic surroundings of San Basilio de Pelenque, a village of 3,500 descendants of escaped African slaves to the south-east of Cartagena, the documentary investigates the area’s distinctive music, known as “pelenque.”
Graciela Salgado is something of a legend among folk music fans and, while “there is plenty of material on the tradition and music of pelenque and the Alegres Ambulancias” says the documentary’s director, “we were more interested in discovering the human beings, and the intimate story of Graciela.”
The production team closely follows the Salgado family through Bogota, Cartagena, Necoli, Puerto Escondido and Choco, building up a tenderly observed portrait of a family laughing, crying, playing, singing and suffering. Death appears too, with cameras capturing Palenquero funeral rituals with their infinitely sad, howled vocals. While Graciela’s health wavers throughout the film, the Caribbean midwife still has the passion and ability to play the drums and sing in her distinctive style.
“There is not one interview or a single voice-over in the documentary,” says Roberto Florez, head of production, “they are themselves.”
The type of music made by Graciela and her Alegres Ambulancias is endangered as modernity filters and reshapes Palenque traditions, but this film aims to preserve the sound of Graciela’s voice and drumming hands before it disappears completely.
The generational attitude shift is evident in Graciela’s relationship with her son Tomas Teheran, who according to Florez, has “a vision of a more Western music industry and all the achievements that are possible through that, while Graciela is more spiritual in her connection with the music.
After three years of filming, the documentary will be shown on Sunday May 16, by Telecaribe at 4:00 PM, followed by airings on other regional channels and Señal Colombia. There are also plans to extend the format of the film to 100 minutes to show in commercial cinemas.