The curious record of Jorge Oñate in vallenato – Music and Books – Culture

If there is a Vallenato artist who has been able to boast of having shared recordings as a musical couple of many Vallenato kings, it is Jorge Oñate. Among the long list of accordion players with whom he has duo, from Miguel López onwards, most have come to hold the most coveted title of accordion players of this folklore.

Jorge Oñate has been an unmissable figure in the Vallenata Legend Festival, almost since its foundation. He accompanied in competition, first with the guacharaca and later with this instrument and also with his voice, more than one candidate for the throne of the vallenatos. And he gave himself the pleasure of winning, singing for the first time and changing the story in passing, with the accordion player Miguel López, in 1972.

Miguel López (1970-1975)

Oñate and Miguel López had been working together since 1970. Miguel, another of the great musical figures that La Paz (César) gave, was the accordion player and leader of the Conjunto de los Hermanos López (to which the cashier Pablo López also belonged).

Oñate, although he had already made another previous recording with Los Guatapurí, already began more firmly as the singer of this musical group. “Los Hermanos López. Jorge Oñate sings”, that’s how the records were signed at the time. The singer was not the main artist.

(Also read: The day-to-day health of Jorge Oñate since his hospitalization).

Neither is it during the tough competitions of the Vallenato Festival. In 1972, when the fifth vallenata crown was being disputed, people expected the instrumentalist to sing as well. But when Miguel López appeared in the contest, Jorge Oñate was the one who sang and López won the trophy. Since then, other accordionists have been accompanied by a singer and now the candidate for the title who sings all his songs is exceptional (the current regulations of the festival ask him to sing at least one song in each participation).

Together with Los Hermanos López, Jorge Oñate recorded songs like Sensitive love, My great friend, The singer from Fonseca, I’m not going to Patillal Y Altos del Rosario.

Colacho Mendoza (1975-1978)

After his separation from the López family and an attempt to consolidate a musical work alongside accordionist Emiliano Zuleta Díaz -with whom he managed to record an album, but who soon returned with his brother Poncho-, Oñate approached the Vallenato king in 1969: Nicolás Elías ‘Colacho’ Mendoza.

Colacho, who would go down in history as one of Escalona’s greatest interpreters (he was the musician who best translated what the patillalero composer created in his mind into accordion notes and a great partner of partying of the same), also recorded great classics with Oñate. King Vallenato was crowned in 69 and he was the second of the interpreters who held this title to join his talent to that of Caesar’s Nightingale.

Along with Colacho, Oñate recorded multiple hits. Among the most remembered are Asencia, Same as that night and A call. Colacho would win one more vallenata crown after the end of their union. He would be the First King of Kings of the Festival, crowned in 1987.

Raúl ‘El Chiche’ Martínez (1978 -1980)

The hug between Jorge Oñate and Raúl ‘El Chiche’ Martínez, rey vallenato 1981 (with whom he recorded ‘Nido de amor’) at the Francisco el Hombre Festival, in Riohacha.


Liliana Martínez Polo. TIME

Chiche Martínez was crowned king of Vallenato in 1981, when he was just 22 years old and for years he was the youngest accordion player to win the title. (Later Saúl Lallemand would overcome it). By then, Chiche had already recorded the albums with Jorge Oñate The change of my life (1978), from which the super-success Love nest; as well as Always united (1979) and Noche de estrellas (1980), which featured Hey you.

So it would not have been unusual for Martinez to enter the 1981 competition as a favorite, thanks to the popularity of his recent musical hits with Oñate. Much later, Oñate would be spoken of as a forger of Vallenato kings, since more than once the story of a young talent would be repeated that began to shine at his side and reached the crown of Valledupar.

(Read more about the story of Nido de amor, recorded with El Chiche, in Five unforgettable songs by Jorge Oñate).

Álvaro López (1986-1996 and 2016)

Jorge Oñate and Álvaro López

Jorge Oñate and Álvaro López in promotional images of their album Cultural Heritage (2016).


Jorge Oñate Press

It would not take long to happen, after a season with Juancho Rois (who, by the way, lost the crown a few years later), Oñate started working alongside Alvarito López, son of Miguel López and current King of Kings of the Festival Vallenato. Their first stage together was between 1986 and 1996. In the intermission, López would go on to win the title of King Vallenato in the 1992 contest.

It is López’s accordion that sounds in I did not understand your love in addition to other hits like Crazy Love Y The love of my life.

Álvaro López would later work with Diomedes Díaz -including the one who won the Latin Grammy (Ready for the photo, winner in 2010) and the last of the Cacique de la Junta: The life of the artist (2014). Two years later he would record the album with Oñate Cultural heritage, so far the last one that the Jilguero de América released to the public and which was nominated in the category of best vallenato / cumbia album of the Latin Grammy in 2017.

(More of this accordion player: ‘Rey de reyes’, the crown that the López dynasty was missing).

Gonzalo ‘El Cocha’ Molina (1997-2001)

Between 1997 and 2001, the musical union with El Cocha Molina took place. Molina had been crowned vallenato king in 1990, he had been an accordionist for Diomedes Díaz, Iván Villazón and Carlos Malo. In addition, it had made the news because Gloria Estefan had invited him to record on her album Opening doors, in 1995.

Exactly in 97, Molina competed for the crown of king of kings and won. So Oñate’s record was increasing, he had not only been with the best, but also with the first two kings of kings. In the company of Oñate he recorded the albums The one of all times, It is universal, The power of my songs Y Take me with you.

(See also: ‘El Cocha’ Molina’s memories of his triumph as king of kings at the Festival).

Julián Rojas (2002 and 2015)

Julián Rojas was the accordion player who beat Juancho Rois when everyone, the public, fans and vallenato experts thought that Rois would take the title in 1991. El sanandresano and El Jilguero de América only recorded one album together, entitled El Invencible.

Years later, in 2015, they would meet again and almost finalize a new album, but the union was broken much earlier, in fact and Oñate would return with Álvarito López to record precisely Cultural heritage.

Christian Camilo Peña (2004-2010)

Jorge Oñate and Chistian Camilo Peña

Jorge Oñate and the 2008 vallenato king, Christian Camilo Peña, on the night in which he was crowned vallenato king.


Claudia Rubio / EL TIEMPO Archive

Christian Camilo Peña, accordion player from Pivijay (Magdalena) was another of the young people who became more visible alongside Jorge Oñate. In 2008, Peña obtained the crown of King Vallenato performing Adored Alice -one of the songs with which Alejo Durán won-, among the songs of the final. Oñate was proud to have been his advisor in choosing his repertoire and that of Fernando Rangel in later years. The goldfinch took the participation of his accordion players in the Festival very seriously and he used to say so.

Peña, now living in the United States, has US citizenship, and has been accompanying Carlos Vives at times for several years, in commitments in which Egidio Cuadrado is not present.

Oñate and Peña recorded albums together like I will continue singing, I Live Triumphing, My best gift, 40 years of partying Y I dedicate my triumphs to you.

Fernando Rangel (2011-2012)

The vallenato king of 2012 also came to the crown as Oñate’s musical formula. Together they recorded the album ‘The movie chacho’.

Javier Matta (2018 – today), strong candidate for the title of King Vallenato

After Rangel, Oñate would record again with Álvaro López and later he would become a musical partner with one of the accordion players who are currently strong contenders for the title of king vallenato: Javier Matta, who has been a finalist several times and whom the public hopes to see again competing … and winning. With Matta, Oñate had begun to release some songs and the joint work was interrupted by the pandemic and subsequent hospitalization of the singer.

Jorge Oñate and Javier Matta

Javier Matta, one of the current favorites to get the crown of King Vallenato, and Jorge Oñate.


Nestor Gomez. TIME

Liliana Martínez Polo
Drafting of Culture


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