Silvia Serrano
Silvia Serrano
Image: Penn State

Student’s award-winning research focuses on unique Colombian music

Graduate student Silvia Serrano is thousands of miles from home as she studies in the humanities program at Penn State Harrisburg. But her research, which garnered a prestigious University award this spring, takes her back to her native Colombia, South America. 

Serrano’s research analyzed the works of musician Jorge Velosa, a musician with peasant origins from Colombia’s Andean region, also Serrano’s original home. Velosa combines traditional instruments of the region with innovative lyrics, full of anecdotes and idioms, Serrano said, to create “carranguera,” a music genre that conveys how Andean peasants talk and live. She said that Velosa’s lyrics validate the peasants’ lifestyle in a culture that generally disrespects them.

Velosa’s music is unique, Serrano said, but it is similar to American bluegrass, in that both emerged from rural areas in mountainous regions and featured lyrics that described everyday rural life. Serrano was inspired to study Velosa  after a friend saw him perform and suggested the idea to her. 

For her research poster presentation "Velosa's Carranguera Lyrics: the Love for the Simple Life," Serrano earned first place at Penn State’s 26th Annual Graduate Exhibition this spring, in the category of Arts and Humanities. Established in 1986, the Graduate Exhibition places special emphasis on communicating research and creative endeavor to a general audience.  This year, 43 graduate students were recognized out of the more than 250 who participated from across the University. The exhibition featured musical and theatrical performances, a visual arts display, and poster exhibits.

Serrano, who currently is writing her master’s thesis on carranguera music and plans to graduate in December, also presented her research at the Mid-Atlantic Council for Latin American Studies in Pittsburgh, Pa. for which she received a travel grant from the University of Pittsburgh.

Serrano’s research has opened other opportunities for her as well. In July, she served as a cultural bridge and interpreter between Colombian participants and visitors at the 45th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. Serrano introduced the carranguera band “El pueblo canta” for the festival program “Colombia: The Nature of Culture.”  

Visit the School of Humanities on Facebook to see more about Serrano.