Jeporeká Brings Young Voices of Paraguay to an International Audience

Latin America boasts a stunning musical history that is rich and varied. Yet this music is sometimes overlooked, considered to be the domain of specialists, or left off of “serious” concert programs. Thus, the Americas Society’s presentation of Jeporeká, a musical project spearheaded by acclaimed Paraguayan guitarist, Berta Rojas, is a welcome and much-needed exploration of this repertoire.

This year, the second edition of Jeporeká highlighted the art of the song, featuring youthful composers and performers (ages 18-35) from Paraguay. Musicians were organized into ten teams, each comprised of a composer, a singer, and a poet. Working over the course of six weeks, the groups wrote and recorded their works with musicians from Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional del Paraguay, led by Sergio Cuquejo, and their recordings were compiled into a single concert-length performance, which premiered on November 26, 2021 on YouTube. The songs were each inspired by visual artworks created by a diverse array of Paraguayan artists. Audiences can learn more about the art and artists of the Obras Semillas (“Seed Works”) behind these new canciones on Jeporeká’s page.

The concert opened with Somos, a rousing anthem by composers Anthony Carillo and Edgar Nino Rodríguez with lyrics by Natalia Mendoza Enciso. The piece honors the legacy of personal triumph over struggle and is a jubilant celebration of life. Ka’aguy ñe’ẽ mondo (Mensaje de la selva), is a similarly upbeat piece, equally at home in the dancehall as on stage.

Edgar Nino Rodríguez, Natalia Mendoza Enciso, Anthony Carillo, and Luana Aquino in Jeporeká--Photo by Jeisson Rodríguez

Edgar Nino Rodríguez, Natalia Mendoza Enciso, Anthony Carillo, and Luana Aquino in Jeporeká–Photo by Jeisson Rodríguez

Diana Fernández’s powerful mezzo carried Guillermo Ezequiel Villalba Vargas and Néstor Amarilla Ojeda’s ballad, Ko´ẽ pyahu (Nuevo amanecer), her voice carefully shading the poem’s colorful description of “the garden filled with sorrows” declaring, “my heart wails” with deep sincerity. The touching work is a sort of tribute to loved ones lost in the COVID-19 pandemic. Ka’aguy Sapukái (El grito de la selva) by composer Diego José Guzmán Gaetán with the haunting poetry of Lilian Beatriz Aliente Oué and sung by the sweet-voiced Darío González, warns of the devastation, destruction, and death caused by deforestation.

Jimmy Peralta Caballero sang passionately of a mysterious aqueous location in Ojo de mar (Victoria Beatriz Díaz Agüero, composer; Fatima Galeano, poet). Soprano Erika Estefanía Estigarribia Pavón gave an engaging performance of Trasmutar (Dina Celeste Portillo Fernández, poet), an up-tempo ballad about the desire to cast off disguises and be supported authentically: “I want to be like the bird, able to spread my wings so that people applaud, but without my disguise.”

The lush, impassioned “Barro como ayer” (Diego Osvaldo Carmona López, composer; María Belén Tamás Mora, poet) tells of the captive soul, shaped, like mud, by a potter. Melissa Catherine Hicks’ soaring voice, supported by the orchestra, perfectly captured the urgency of the poet’s desire. The energetic rock ballad, Kuarahy pyahu (Nuevo sol) by composer Mijael Peralta Torres and poet María José Rodríguez was performed by María Alejandra Almada Di Paola, notable for her captivating lyric soprano voice. Inspiration for the song came from “Paz del Chaco,” a 2007 photograph with woven silver paper and gold thread embroidery by the artist Joaquín Sánchez.

Carmen Monges in Jeporeká--Photo by Jeisson Rodríguez

Carmen Monges in Jeporeká–Photo by Jeisson Rodríguez

Composer Carmen Monges beautifully set Lucio Núñez’s sentimental poetry (Like rain that finally came and makes the native tree sprout / Just in time you found me / Sublime love that restored me”) in the ballad, Dime, performed with breathless affection by Dania Flor Giménez. Finally, Raíces, composed by Jorge Roberto Aquino Insfrán with words by Alicia María Gómez Gonzalez, was performed by Gómez and Hugo Nicolás Carlson Capli. Inspired by Mabel Arcondo’s “Tranvía a la casa de Gaudi,” this soaring duet was a satisfying end to a musically rich and exceptional program.

Jeporeká’s organizers, artists, production team, and supporters have created a series of enjoyable and high-quality performances by a group of immensely talented artists. Despite the online format, the energy and synergy between the performers was immediately palpable from the first song to the last. Great thought was clearly given to the process itself, with notable mentors guiding the creators and bringing their works to fruition.

Through this series of beautifully performed and recorded songs, Jeporeká has presented a number of promising young artists to the international community. It will be good to hear more from these outstanding Paraguayan singers, composers, and poets. With that in mind, if another edition of Jeporeká takes place (and I sincerely hope that it does!), I would suggest that audiences be provided with more detailed biographical information about the artists alongside the performance videos so that, in this increasingly connected world, they can find new supporters and fans around the globe.


I CARE IF YOU LISTEN is an editorially-independent program of the American Composers Forum, funded with generous donor and institutional support. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and may not represent the views of ICIYL or ACF. 

A gift to ACF helps support the work of ICIYL. For more on ACF, visit the “At ACF” section or