It takes passion and an infinite love for the accordion and its music to get the largest collection of accordions in the world. For this reason, Beto Murgas is such a well-known character in the Colombian music scene, since his home, turned into a museum, is now a tourist spot for those who want to know his history and that of this mythical instrument.
Accordions are instruments that, to this day, are widely used in different musical genres. Despite not being as famous as guitars and other instruments, accordions have humbly found space, mixing their distinctive tones with different sounds and voices, especially in folk music from European countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, Scotland and Austria.
However, despite its fame in the old continent, a country in Latin America has given it incredible importance by using it as a base in its best known and exported musical genre. This is the case of Colombia, a nation that has given the accordion a unique role in vallenato, considered a genre that represents the Colombian Caribbean. It is true that the accordion is also used in cumbias, but the fame of vallenato has brought the use of this instrument to the fore.
The accordion is not something that has recently been manufactured. In fact, this instrument originated more than 3000 years ago in China. Its structure is far from the instrument it is today, but this primitive sample of the accordion laid the foundations for what this small instrument is today in the musical world.
Marco Polo may have been the first to bring accordion knowledge to the West, called “sheng” in ancient times, but he was not the only one to be amazed at all the melodies it could produce. The accordion is living history and, for that reason, a Colombian named José Alberto Murgas Peñaloza has taken on the task of preserving its importance not only in his heart, but in his home, in full view of all.
The Beto Murgas house: the great accordion museum
Beto Murgas is a true Colombian character. He has been a successful musical composer since 1969 and, to this day, he dedicates himself completely to music, but this time giving up his house for the conservation of the king of vallenato instrument of music.
Valledupar, the musical capital of this genre, became his home for a long time and, after years studying Colombian folklore and lecturing on the accordion, this man began collecting them until he had a large inventory full of accordions of all types and sizes that led him to open the doors of his house to the public to share his story and that of this wonderful instrument.
With a certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor in 2018, visiting this house located in the San Joaquín neighborhood means witnessing, together with a professional guide, the evolution of the accordion, vallenato and its different tunes for a 45-minute journey.
An almost religiously cared book is in charge of recording the visits of each tourist who comes to the museum and all their opinions have derived in praise for the effort behind the collection of accordions and all the stories that Beto transmits to explain the progress of the vallenato through the years.
And it is that what characterizes José Alberto Murgas is not only his great collection, but his dedication to not allowing the smallest details to go unnoticed and to his extensive knowledge of each of the instruments that he keeps in his home. Curiosities, the answer to the strangest and most common doubts, the musical history and transformations of the accordion, all this can be found within the 4 walls of this attractive house in the Upar Valley.
What can be found?
There are 70 collectible accordions found in the house of Beto Murgas, and the most impressive thing is that none completely resembles the other. From instruments made by the best accordion brand , to the oldest models created with metal details and bamboo. All these instruments have found a permanent place in the home of this Colombian composer.
The walls in front of the different shelves that keep the accordions also have photographic records of various musicians and important data on the influence of each accordion on the music of Colombia and the world. Walking through the corridors and finding that first accordion in history made by Chinese to imitate the singing of pheasants is as exciting as stumbling upon the most modern accordion in the museum. All of them come from interesting stories that Beto Murgas patiently and enthusiastically tells all his visitors.
The variants of the accordion invented by Cyril Demian are also inside the museum, preserved as if two centuries had not passed since its creation. Therefore, not only the linear evolution of the accordion can be visualized, but also some of its musical variations that have also managed to have a place in different artistic pieces.
The heart of vallenato
The accordion museum not only guards these great instruments, but also the memories of the Murgas and Ocha marriage, along with the childhood and entire lives of their children, who toured the museum rooms, also impregnating them with musical memories of the family.
Entering the place is to learn family anecdotes and see the impact of the accordion in the life of Mr. José Alberto. Visiting the house of Beto Murgas is not only knowing the accordion as an instrument, but also learning about its arrival as a defining moment in the history of the Upar Valley, a place that, together with the accordion, created the basis for the development a musical genre that, despite not using an indigenous main instrument, managed to become an immaterial culture of Colombia: the vallenato.
No tourist or student of the Colombian lands can say that he has managed to learn the history of the country in its entirety if he has not dedicated himself to exploring the different musical expressions that occur in the country, especially the vallenato and its accordion. For that reason, visiting this museum is getting to know Colombia first-hand like never before. After the tour, you will surely want to leave your eulogy in the guest book, hoping that many others will come after you to visit Beto and his impressive musical passion.