Vernon Chatlein is a percussionist and composer from Curaçao specialized in Afro-Caribbean, Latin Music and Jazz. Vernon started his education at the Edgar Palm Music School in Curaçao followed by the Conservatorio Amadeo Roldán in Havana, Cuba. He became a young prodigy at just 19, chosen as the leader of the Curaçao youth Jazz Orchestra, under the tutelage of the acclaimed pianist David “Ronchi” Matthew. This resulted in a connection with pianist Alex Brown (pianist for the famous Cuban saxophone player Paquito d’Rivera), who invited Vernon to play at the famous Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Jazz club in New York.
He then continues the Jazz Percussion study at the Conservatory in Amsterdam however decides to depart the program early. His ensemble teacher Randal Corson, well-acclaimed pianist and composer and known as the godfather of Curaçaoan Jazz, takes Vernon under his wing and makes him part of his band; “Randal Corson’s Symbiosis”. This revolutionized
Vernon’s education in Jazz and became a big push for Vernon to carry on the torch of Curaçaoan music and jazz.
Following this vision, he releases his first Album Inner Silence which in a way reflects Vernon finding his inner peace whilst living the busy city life in Amsterdam. Although based in the Netherlands, he always reconnects to his Island, making sure that each project is always shared and performed in Curaçao. His work, maybe unconsciously, is always geared to his
country and his people.
He continues to study his craft in percussion with the likes of José Luis Quintana “Changuito”, Yaroldi Abreu, Dreiser Durruthy Bombalé, known as some of the greatest master percussionists of the world. It results in Vernon growing into a household name himself, landing international stages such as Festival de Jazz NaguaNagua (Venezuela), the Baltimore-Washington Jazz, Havana Cuba (Teatro Bellas Artes), Saulkrasti Jazz Festival Latvia, North Sea Jazz Festival (Rotterdam), Sunday Jazz Brunch at St. Peter’s Church (NY) and of also the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival (Aruba). It advances and solidifies his space in international Latin and Afro Caribbean Jazz. He has had numerous tours in the US, Japan and China with the Malando Orchestra and was also one of the first members of Dutch Curaçaoan festival band “KiT” (Kuenta I Tambú).
Between the chaos he pairs up with world-renowned Dutch drummer Koen Herfst and initiates the drum-percussion duo 3MEETS2 where they experiment with Latin Percussion and Metal drumming. They go on to release an EP with the same name.
Vernon is also asked to become the inhouse Musician for Dutch “BIPOC” theater collective Sir Duke. This opens the stage for Vernon to experiment with text as a performer and storyteller and also making music for theater. It leads to Vernon starting his own group “VANTA”; an interdisciplinarity theater and research collective that uses spoken word to tell stories.
Vanta drives the importance to present work that reflect and amplifies the beauty of blackness. Through Vanta, Vernon discovers the sound archive Zikinza, created by Dutch Priest Paul Brenniker and Curaçaoan born anthropologist and writer Elis Juliana. This is an archive consisting of roughly 1400 recordings with interviews, stories, anecdotes, songs and riddles
from Afro Curaçaoan elders from the 50’s and 60’s. One of the elders being as old as 102, meaning the information came from before the abolishment. Through the archive Vernon realizes that there is a lot of his cultural heritage that is not seeing the light of day. Zikinza also reconnects Vernon with one of his favorite musical genres, Muzik di Zumbi, an African
music style born on the plantations, however popularized by farming communities who were traveling to the city for work and started to emulate these sounds they caught on the other side of the island.
In 2020 Vernon was awarded a development grant which gives him the opportunity to dive into the archives even more. It inspires his own research and performance platform “Voices from Letters”. A platform for research on tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Always based on music and stories of Afro Cultures in the Caribbean, always approaching the region as its own continent.
The first piece created out of Voices from Letters is “Zikinza”, followed by “Imershón”. Both projects represent the culture and stories that are part of the Zikinza archive, also highlighting the importance of the creators of the archive.
Currently Vernon is crafting his third research and performance piece titled “Kimina”. The project researches Tambú and with it Vernon aims to popularize and standardize the genre whilst still preserving the culture and the codes that come with it. Also bringing Tambú into contemporary spaces, his goal is to not only make Tambú accessible for different audiences, he
also wants to offer the world something that is authentically Curaçaoan and that Curaçaoans can be proud of. It is his way to continue the legacy of the greats that came before him.
YouTube Video – Vernon Chatlein: Telelé
* Content Source: https://vernonchatlein.com/
* Photos from Vernon Chatlein’s Facebook page
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