not a guitar, but it looks like one.

stretch along the length of the instrument, running down its neck to the body.
The sound comes from a hole cut into the widest portion of the instrument, as
the musician strums with one hand and picks the strings on the instrument’s
neck with the other.

instrument, called a tiple, catches the spotlight at the latest installment of
the Hispanic League of Winston-Salem’s Colorful Sounds in Concert. The Choquenza
Duet, made up of José Luis Martínez and Alberto Puentes, fills the auditorium
of the Reynolda House Museum in Winston-Salem with the sounds of the
traditional Colombian string instrument.

Sounds in Concert aims to spotlight individual Hispanic cultures, while giving
those from the country a platform to share their art without judgement or
stereotype, according to Mari Jo Turner, executive director of the Hispanic

using the music from these different countries,” Turner says, “it helps to
dispel some of the myths.”

space outside of the auditorium holds tables with light hors d’oeuvres based on
Colombian food, cultural appetizers before the concert. Turner mentions that
the previous Friday, the duo of musicians offered a master class at Wake Forest
University. One of the goals of the Hispanic League, Turner explains, is to
encourage education, both through events and in the classroom. The organization
boosts Hispanic perspectives in academia and sponsors students annually.

will be our 21st year of giving scholarships,” Turner says, “and
this year we’re doing a record number of 50.”

tiple looks like a smaller guitar at first glance. The Colombian instrument
even shares some of the exact same chords with the guitar, and is sometimes
tuned in a course similar to the guitar’s— in E, G, B, and D. However, rather
than six strings, the tiple sports a total of 12, divided into four orders of
three strings each.

José Luis Martínez plays the tiple, a twelve-stringed instrument from Colombia. (photo by Savi Ettinger)

Choquenza Duet focuses on Colombian music and composers during the first half
of the show. Over songs like “Encanto” by Luis A. Calvo and “Atardecer” by
Carlos Vieco, the two instruments harmonize, as Puentes sets a steady beat
while Martínez plucks out quick notes. At parts, his rapid-fire strumming
across the dozen strings makes Martínez seem like a whole orchestra. When the
songs call for a slow moment, he barely brushes his fingers over the instrument
like it would break under any more pressure. The music takes on a wispy

Puentes sits to the left of Martínez. The afternoon concert is one of many for
the pair, having played the tiple together for more than 30 years. The duo balance
the music with their work, Martínez as a medical doctor and Puentes as an

a lawyer,” Puentes says, “but I love the music.”

second half of the concert takes music from various other countries, and shows
how the tiple can go beyond Colombian folk tunes. Puentes took up the
instrument nearly 40 years ago, and interspersed his Colombian career with
living and teaching the tiple in Cincinnati, Miami, Dayton and Savannah.

“The instrument is typical of Colombia,” Puentes says, “but with the tiple you can play the music of Europe, of America, of South America.”

introduces a song as “a second national anthem” of Mexico — “Guadalajara.”
Puentes plays the famous mariachi tune solo. As people clap along to the beat
or sing out the verses of the song, Puentes uses the tiple to mimic a full

Alberto Puentes takes on a solo piece with “Guadalajara”. (photo by Savi Ettinger)

later plays “Yesterday,” a similarly famous Beatles tune. Though Puentes is the
only one playing, the instrument hits both the notes of the original song’s
guitar and Paul McCartney’s vocals.

the duo stands, the audience calls out for an encore, stomping and clapping
along with the chanting. Martínez smiles, and leans over to Puentes, whispering
something. The two then sit, Martínez leaning into the microphone and asking
for the crowd to sing along, to a song called “Pueblito Viejo,” or “Little Old
Town.” The beat of clapping and singing mingles with the tiple’s music as it
echoes in the auditorium.

“Lunita consentida, colgada del cielo,” they sing out,
“como un farolito que puso mi Dios.”

For more information about the Hispanic League and the Colorful Sounds in Concert series, visit

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