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Passages: Rafael Ángel Aparicio, Ethnomusicology Visiting Artist (1970-71, 1996-97)

Submitted by Joanne De Pue on March 7, 2022 - 9:12am
Rafael Angel Aparicio, “The Diamond Fingernail"

Harpist Rafael Ángel Aparicio (1934-2022), who served twice as Visiting Artist in Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington, died on February 10th, 2022, in Caracas, Venezuela. The cause was COVID-19. Known as “Uña de Diamante” (diamond fingernail), Aparicio was a virtuoso in the Venezuelan tradition of musica llanera, or joropo. He was born in San Juan de Payara, in the state of Apure, one of 11 children in a musical family. His family ensemble, Grupo Hermanos Aparicio, which became one of the most respected exponents of musica llanera in Venezuela, included Angel as harpist and musical director, along with his sister Isabel María, singer, and his brothers Florencio, Rafael (“Fucho”) and Euclides. Angel also founded the organizations Arpas de Oro de Venezuela and the Fundación Cultural Hermanos Aparicio, dedicated to the promotion of Venezuelan traditional music. His honors included four Guaicapuro de Oro medals, the Premio Mundial de la Paz, and the Premio Luis Alfonzo Larraín.

From 1959 to 1962 Angel studied at the Universidad Central de Venezuela with professor Luis Felipe Ramón y Rivera, who encouraged him to continue his research on the Venezuelan harp at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where he graduated in 1967 with a degree in Ethnomusicology. In 1970 he began a residency as Visiting Artist in Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington, Seattle, joined by his brother Fucho who taught cuatro and maracas. Almost three decades later, in 1996-1997, Angel once again taught at the University of Washington, this time accompanied by his brother Euclides. During both these residencies he recorded, with his brothers, traditional songs and original compositions that were released in 1997 as an album, Recordando a Venezuela, in the Northwest Archives Series, a collaboration between Northwest Folklife and the University of Washington Ethnomusicology Archives.

He is survived by his siblings Isabel, Paul and Saul, who live in Venezuela, as well as his brothers Fucho and Euclides, who continue to reside in the Seattle area.