BOGOTA – Hundreds of people outfitted in yellow shirts and singing Colombian folk “vallenatos” bade their last farewells to singer Martin Elias, who died last week in a road accident.
Some 20,000 people congregated at the cemetery in Valledupar – the world capital of the vallenato folk music style featuring the accordion as its primary instrument – where a caravan arrived headed by a fire truck transporting the singer’s casket wrapped in a Colombian flag.
Along the procession’s route, hundreds of people with balloons and Colombian flags shouted and greeted the artist as his coffin passed by, and he was remembered – in particular – by the crowd by donning yellow shirts of the kind he habitually wore in his performances.
Elias, 26, the son of iconic singer-songwriter Diomedes Diaz, died last Friday when the SUV in which he was riding with three other people flipped over on a highway in northern Colombia.
The singer was considered the musical heir of his father, the artist with the highest record sales in Colombia and who died on Dec. 22, 2013, in Valledupar.
Elias also stood out as one of the key figures in the newly surging wave of vallenato music.
Since last Friday, Valledupar – where on Monday authorities declared a civic holiday for Elias’s burial – has become the destination for vallenato lovers, friends of the artist, the curious and even street vendors, who have been offering t-shirts, caps, photos and videos of the young singer.
The artist’s body lay in state for two days on the Nicolas Elias “Colacho” Mendoza platform erected in the city’s Vallenato Legend Park, where each year the popular Vallenato Legend Festival is held.
On Sunday, a select group of performers and accordion players paid homage to the artist with a farewell concert.
Among those dedicating numbers to Elias were Ivan Villazon, Silvio Brito, Jean Carlos Centeno, Tomas Alfonso “Poncho” Zuleta, Jorge Ońate, Silvestre Dangond, Peter Manjarres, Jorge Ivan Diaz, John Mindiola and Rafael Santos Diaz, the latter of whom is Elias’s brother.
Several of Colombia’s vallenato artists have lost their lives in road accidents, including Patricia Teheran in 1995 and Kaleth Morales in 2005.