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Traditional Music: The Pasillo

The Pasillo (in English the little step) is a South American genre of music extremely popular in the countries that were a part of the nineteen-century Viceroyalty of New Granada and Grand Colombia. It is born in Colombia and it spread around the territories especially in Ecuador where we consider it the national music style. In Venezuela is referred as «vals», the Spanish word for waltz.


The Montecristi Golf Club team is always looking for ways to make you experience Ecuadorian culture, and what better way than with music.


Ecuador incorporated to it some elements of other popular rhythms such as sanjuanito and yaraví. The dance for the pasillo incorporated movements from the classical European waltz and its accompanied by guitar, mandolin, and other string instruments.


It was a very fast dance, calling for the most experienced dancers who, after three or four pieces were physically exhausted. The dance called for the use of a handkerchief in order to prevent the lady to be drenched in sweat since it was not a loose dance but rather a close one. The man would hug the lady from the waist and rapidly twirl around. It was not a rare occurrence for fainting episodes due to fatigue or dizziness.


Our pasillo is slow and melancholic. At the beginning of the 20th century, it stopped being a festive genre and became the slow, nostalgic and more often than not heartbroken ridden music, filled with lyrics evoking lost loves and being away from the homeland. Some other songs express the beauty of Ecuador and its women.


The most notable pasillos also have been the ones noting the beauty of certain cities, some of which have become even more known and popular than the city anthems themselves. This is the case for example of “Guayaquil de mis amores” (can be translated more or less to “My beloved Guayaquil”) written by Nicasio Safadi.


In the 1950s, the Ecuadorian pasillo went through a transition with the arrival of radio since it was forced to compete with the arrival of tango, waltz and tropical music. It remained strong thanks to great performers such as the duet Luis Alberto Valencia and Gonzalo Benítez, the Montecel brothers, the Mendoza Sangurima sisters, the Mendoza Suasti sisters, Los Coraza and Marco Tulio Hidrobo.


A recording of the pasillo duet “Ecuador” by Nicasio Safadi and Enrique Ibanez Mora was influential in this unique music genre gaining popularity and during the career of Ecuadorian musician, Julio Jaramillo, he came to be known as the country’s greatest pasillo performer.

He performed throughout Latin America and in part of Spain and helped make pasillo even more popular. After his death on 9 February 1978, almost 200,000 people gathered to pay homage to him. Julio Jaramillo served as an unofficial ambassador for Ecuador wherever he performed and he is regarded by many of his fans as a symbol of national identity. He is still considered to be one of the greatest singers to come out of Latin America.


Nowadays, Ecuadorian pasillo is a national icon, and younger generations are adding new styles, thus supporting wide-scale distribution.

Each year in early December, the “Asociacion Artistas Profesionales del Ecuador” (National Artist Association) organizes the Festival del Pasillo in Quito as a part of the festivities to celebrate the city’s foundation. This presents a good opportunity for visitors who travel to Ecuador, to get acquainted with Ecuadorians and the music they love.

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Here in Start Living you will find all kind of information you need for traveling around Ecuador. We invite you to visit and discover this wonderful country and live ...

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