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U.S. weighs sending 5,000 troops to Eastern Europe to counter Russia

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U.S. weighs sending 5,000 troops to Eastern Europe to counter Russia

Soldiers of Poland, Britain, US and Romania take part in military exercises at the military training ground in Bemowo Piskie, Poland on Nov. 18, 2021.

Janek Skarzynski/AFP via Getty Images

Janek Skarzynski/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration is considering sending as many as 5,000 U.S. troops to Eastern Europe, a U.S. official confirmed to NPR, in what would be a step-up in American military involvement in the region amid growing fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

U.S. troops could be headed to Romania and Poland, or possibly Bulgaria or Hungary. No final decision has been made but the troops have been told to be ready to move, the official said.

U.S. service members could be drawn from their existing posts elsewhere in NATO countries in Europe. Some of the troops would also likely come from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The New York Times, which first reported the news of planned troop movements, said senior Pentagon officials laid out a number of options for President Biden on Saturday.

Among them, sending 1,000 to 5,000 troops to Eastern European countries and the Baltics, “with the potential to increase that number tenfold if things deteriorate,” according to the Times.

There are no plans to send more Americans into Ukraine itself, according to the paper.

The Biden administration has held back on more aggressive actions, for fear of inciting a Russian invasion.

So far, U.S. aid to Ukraine has largely come in the form of military equipment. A Biden administration shipment of aid — close to 200,000 pounds of “lethal aid” including ammunition — arrived in Ukraine on Sunday. In October, the U.S. sent Ukraine 30 Javelin anti-tank guided missile systems.

There are already more than 150 U.S. military advisers in Ukraine, the Times reported, though they are far from any potential front lines and would likely leave the country quickly after a Russian invasion.

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Last week, Biden said he had warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country’s invasion of Ukraine would cause Washington to send more troops to the region.

“We’re going to actually increase troop presence in Poland, in Romania, et cetera, if in fact he moves,” Biden said in a news conference, pointing out that the two countries are NATO members.

Ukraine is not a NATO member, and Russia has demanded that it never become one.

Russia has stationed over 100,000 troops near the Ukraine border, threatening an imminent assault on the country. Russia has rejected that it has such plans in store.

While Ukraine boasts mighty military power, Russia’s bigger, more modern army would likely give it the upper hand should the country invade.

The State Department earlier Sunday ordered the departure of diplomats’ families from Ukraine, in a move that officials assured did not signify waning support for the country.

Tom Bowman contributed reporting.

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State Department orders families of embassy staff to leave Ukraine

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State Department orders families of embassy staff to leave Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks as he greets embassy staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv on Jan. 19. The State Department is ordering family members of embassy staff to leave.

Alex Brandon/Pool via AFP via Getty Images

Alex Brandon/Pool via AFP via Getty Images

The State Department ordered the family members of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, to leave the country, as fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine grow.

The department is also allowing the departure of nonessential embassy employees, it said in an updated travel advisory issued on Sunday evening.

Citing a “continued threat of Russian military action,” the State Department said that “U.S. citizens in Ukraine should consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options.”

Russia currently has more than 100,000 troops stationed near the Ukrainian border.

In a briefing call, senior State Department officials did not specify any reasons behind the timing of the new travel advisory, but repeatedly emphasized the Biden administration’s comments last week that a Russian invasion could happen at any moment.

The department would not say how many Americans or embassy staff are in Ukraine.

“There are reports Russia is planning significant military action against Ukraine,” the advisory read. “The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice.”

Any Russian military action in Ukraine, the department said, would severely impact the embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in departing the country as well as other consular services.

A senior U.S. official said on Sunday that the U.S. is conducting the drawdown “out of an abundance of caution,” and that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions remain unknown.

U.S. officials say it’s possible that Russia could mount a “false flag” operation to justify an invasion.

The travel advisory comes a day after the U.K. said it had intelligence that Russia was plotting to install a pro-Kremlin leader in Ukraine.

Russia denies it is planning to invade Ukraine.

The news also follows Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday in which they failed to come to a diplomatic agreement on the Ukraine crisis, but left the door open to continue talks.

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Don Wilson, cofounder of the instrumental guitar group The Ventures, dies at age 88

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Don Wilson, cofounder of the instrumental guitar group The Ventures, dies at age 88

Bob Spalding, left, and Don Wilson of The Ventures perform at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in New York, March 10, 2008. Wilson, a co-founder of the band, died Saturday at the age of 88.

Jason DeCrow/AP

Jason DeCrow/AP

TACOMA, Wash. — Don Wilson, co-founder and rhythm guitarist of the instrumental guitar band The Ventures, has died.

He was 88.

Wilson died Saturday in Tacoma of natural causes, surrounded by his four children, The News Tribune reported.

The band’s hits included “Walk, Don’t Run,” and the theme song for “Hawaii Five-O.” They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

“Our dad was an amazing rhythm guitar player who touched people all over world with his band, The Ventures,” son Tim Wilson said in a statement. “He will have his place in history forever and was much loved and appreciated. He will be missed.”

In the 1960s and early 1970s, 38 of the band’s albums charted in the United States.

The Ventures had 14 singles in the Billboard Hot 100. With over 100 million records sold, the Ventures are the best-selling instrumental band of all time.

The band scored the No. 2 hit in the country with “Walk, Don’t Run” in 1960.

Ventures founders Bob Bogle and Wilson were bricklayers when they bought guitars and chord books at a pawnshop in Tacoma in 1958.

“They were just really cheap guitars,” Wilson once recalled. “They didn’t stay in tune very well. But we wanted to learn.”

By the next year, they had formed the Ventures, adding Nokie Edwards on bass guitar and Howie Johnson on drums.

Johnson broke his neck in a car wreck in 1961 and died in 1988. Skip Moore played drums on “Walk Don’t Run,” and Mel Taylor took take over on drums and rounded out the classic lineup, with Edwards on lead guitar, in 1962.

The band continued to perform through numerous lineup changes, but Wilson was the one constant throughout. He didn’t miss a tour until his retirement in 2015, according to the family’s statement.

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Ukraine crisis deepens after U.K. says Russia may try to install a pro-Kremlin leader

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Ukraine crisis deepens after U.K. says Russia may try to install a pro-Kremlin leader

People rallying in patriotic support of Ukraine hold a 500 meter long ribbon in the colors of the Ukrainian flag outside St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery on Unity Day on January 22, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The situation along the Russia-Ukraine border remains tense, as Russia has amassed an estimated 100,000 troops just across the divide while Ukraine’s outnumbered military prepares to defend itself against a possible invasion.

Adding to the turmoil, the British government revealed details on Saturday of what it called an alleged Russian plot to install a pro-Kremlin leader in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

The U.K. Foreign Office said it also had information that Russian intelligence services remained in contact with several former Ukrainian politicians, including an ex-prime minister.

“The information being released today shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

“This is very much part of the Russian toolkit,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “It runs the gamut from a large, conventional incursion or invasion of Ukraine to these kind of destabilizing activities in an attempt to topple the government, and it’s important that people be on notice about that possibility.”

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the allegations “disinformation” and “nonsense” in a tweet on Saturday and said it was another example of Western nations escalating tensions around Ukraine.

Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a former senior intelligence officer, told NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday that it’s fair to question the details of the U.K. report, but that interfering in Ukraine’s government is consistent with what Russia appears to want to accomplish in the region.

“What Russia wants is to have some autonomy in the East that would give Russia a veto over Ukraine’s foreign policy, and they’re looking for a guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO,” Kendall-Taylor said. Doing so would likely require toppling the government of Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky government, she said, “and/or securing a demanding military position that can help Russia extract those demands from Kyiv and the United States and NATO.”

Last week the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned four Ukrainians, including two sitting members of parliament, for engaging in “Russian government-directed influence activities to destabilize Ukraine.”

People are preparing for conflict but hoping for peace

NPR’s Central Europe Correspondent Rob Schmitz reports that the mood in Kyiv is one of “patient resolve,” with restaurants full and children sledding on snow-dusted hills. It’s not that citizens are naive about the possibility of a military incursion, but rather that Ukrainians have said they’ve adjusted to life under the constant threat of Russian aggression.

“We have been living in a state of war for the last seven years going on eight now,” Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrainian member of parliament, told NPR.

“Physically, psychologically, emotionally, it would be impossible if all of us up to now would be still stressed, would be concerned 24/7 and showing signs of anxiety. You would see a different Ukraine then,” she said.

Russia has said it has no plans to invade Ukraine, but the build-up of Russian troops along the border has prompted the U.S. to provide Ukraine with increased military aid for national defense.

A nearly 200,00-pound shipment of “lethal aid” approved by President Biden, including ammunition for Ukraine’s front-line troops, arrived in the country over the weekend, the U.S. Embassy said.

Blinked said on CNN that the U.S. has given Russia “two paths” through the current crisis. “There’s the path of diplomacy and dialogue,” he said, “but there’s also a path of its renewed aggression and massive consequences that we have been building now for many weeks.”

Pope Francis has called for an international “day of prayer for peace” on Wednesday, urging politicians to find a nonviolent solution to the crisis and expressing concern over the security of Europe.

Meanwhile the head of the German navy has resigned after saying that Ukraine would not be able to regain the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014, and suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved “respect,” according to the Associated Press.

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Buckingham Palace removes Prince Andrew’s titles in wake of sexual assault lawsuit

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Buckingham Palace removes Prince Andrew’s titles in wake of sexual assault lawsuit

Sarah McCammon speaks to Sonia Sodha from ‘The Guardian’ about the sexual abuse lawsuit against Prince Andrew and its impact on the institution of Britain’s royal family.

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New Zealand adds new COVID restrictions as omicron spreads

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New Zealand adds new COVID restrictions as omicron spreads

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks about the COVID-19 situation while visiting New Plymouth on Thursday. New Zealand is among the few remaining countries to have avoided any outbreaks of the omicron variant — but Ardern said the nation would tighten restrictions as soon as one was detected.

Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald via AP

Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald via AP

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealanders are set to face new COVID-19 restrictions after nine cases of the omicron variant were detected in a single family that flew to Auckland for a wedding earlier this month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Sunday.

The so-called “red setting” of the country’s pandemic response includes heightened measures such as required mask wearing and limits on gatherings, and the restrictions will go into effect on Monday.

Ardern stressed that “red is not lockdown,” noting that businesses can remain open and people can still visit family and friends and move freely around the country.

“Our plan for managing omicron cases in the early stage remains the same as delta, where we will rapidly test, contact trace and isolate cases and contacts in order to slow the spread,” Ardern told reporters in Wellington on Sunday.

New Zealand had been among the few remaining countries to have avoided any outbreaks of the omicron variant, but Ardern acknowledged last week that an outbreak was inevitable given the high transmissibility of the variant.

The country has managed to contain the spread of the delta variant, with an average of about 20 new cases each day. But it has seen an increasing number of people arriving into the country and going into mandatory quarantine who are infected with omicron.

That has put strain on the quarantine system and prompted the government to limit access for returning citizens while it decides what to do about reopening its borders, angering many people who want to return to New Zealand.

About 93% of New Zealanders aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated and 52% have had a booster shot. The country has just begun vaccinating children aged between 5 and 11.

The family from the Nelson-Marlborough region attended a wedding and other events while in Auckland, with estimates suggesting they came into contact with “well over 100 people at these events,” Ardern said.

“That means that omicron is now circulating in Auckland and possibly the Nelson-Marlborough region if not elsewhere,” she added.

The move to the red setting also impacts Ardern personally. The prime minister was planning to get married next weekend, but as a result of the new restrictions the celebration will be postponed.

“I just join many other New Zealanders who have had an experience like that as a result of the pandemic and to anyone who’s caught up in that scenario, I am so sorry,” she said.

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Kiribati and Samoa implement rare lockdowns after travelers test positive

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Kiribati and Samoa implement rare lockdowns after travelers test positive

Tarawa atoll, Kiribati, is pictured in 2004. The Pacific island nations of Kiribati and Samoa have announced rare COVID-19 lockdowns after dozens of international travelers tested positive for the virus.

Richard Vogel/AP

Richard Vogel/AP

Kiribati and Samoa both implemented COVID-19 lockdowns on Saturday after international arrivals brought the virus with them, a rarity for the remote Pacific island nations.

This is the first pandemic lockdown in Kiribati, which had previously reported only two COVID-19 cases — both were people on a fishing ship in May 2021 who isolated on board. The country reopened its borders to international travel earlier this month for the first time in nearly two years.

Its government announced on Tuesday that 36 out of 54 passengers on a flight from Fiji had tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival, despite being vaccinated and testing negative three times during the pre-departure quarantine period. They were escorted to a quarantine center for further monitoring and testing. One of the frontline workers stationed outside the quarantine center also tested positive.

On Friday, the government confirmed a new case, this time from someone uninvolved with the quarantine center.

Based on the newest case, “there is now an assumption that COVID-19 is now spreading in the community on South Tarawa and Betio,” the government wrote on Facebook.

South Tarawa is part of Kiribati’s capital and home to about half of its population, or some 63,000 people.

A 24-hour curfew went into effect on Saturday and it’s not clear how long the lockdown will last.

Residents can only leave their homes to access emergency or essential services including hospitals, police departments, grocery stores and banks. Essential providers can only operate during certain hours, public transportation will not run, social gatherings are banned and travel between the outer islands is prohibited.

The government also urged residents to get vaccinated. Only about 53% of adults had received two doses as of late December, according to Radio Kiribati.

In Samoa, officials announced a 48-hour lockdown after 15 out of 73 passengers who arrived on a Wednesday flight from Brisbane, Australia, tested positive.

Samoa had previously confirmed just two COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization. Some 62% of its population is fully vaccinated.

Between Saturday and Monday, all residents except for essential workers are required to stay at home and off the roads. Businesses, schools and restaurants will be closed, travel is prohibited and mass gatherings are banned.

Agafili Tomaimano Shem Leo, the chairman of the National Emergency Operation Center, said that the “day dreaded by authorities for COVID-19 to invade Samoa is here,” according to the government statement.

“Our country is in a national emergency and our security is under siege from COVID-19,” he said, urging members of the public not to be complacent.

The government said that failure to comply with lockdown restrictions could result in a $2,000 fine.

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Tom Smith, founding member of noise band To Live and Shave in L.A., has died at 65

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Tom Smith, founding member of noise band To Live and Shave in L.A., has died at 65

Tom Smith performing on Dec. 13, 2013 in Jacksonville, Fla.

Patrick Spurlock for NPR

Patrick Spurlock for NPR

Tom Smith, a relentless musical experimenter and prominent figure in the international noise scene for decades, died on January 20 in Hanover, Germany. He was 65. His partner, Claudia Franke, confirmed to NPR that the cause was colon cancer.

As word of Smith’s passing spread, friends and colleagues — including Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, Pylon’s Vanessa Hay, and Matmos’ Drew Daniel –shared tributes on social media. On Instagram, Moore called Smith a “beyond-post-punk noise provocateur and visionary,” while writer Byron Coley described him on Twitter as “a big lunk, impossible to handle and will never be replaced.”

“I’m a purveyor of organic folk, a product of environment, a fusion of innate — and perhaps largely wasted — intellect and Southern dyspeptic aesthetics,” Smith told The Wire in 2002. “I’m a very happy guy.”

Born in Adel, Georgia on April 10, 1956, Smith spent his teen years discovering King Crimson, Sun Ra and, most importantly, the dub innovations of Lee “Scratch” Perry. In 1978 he started the group Boat Of, which included future R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe. He once described their sound as “guitars played through tinny, crackling drive-in loudspeakers, swooping, absurdly overdriven bass lines, re-edited Scientist dubs… with exceedingly sarcastic, willfully cryptic vocals. “

In 1984 Smith moved to Washington, D.C., where he promoted shows at the nightclub DC Space, briefly joined local bands Velvet Monkeys and Pussy Galore, and created the group Peach of Immortality. Featuring tabletop guitar, cello, and Smith’s tape manipulations, Peach of Immortality courted confusion, titling one of their albums Talking Heads ’77. “It was just a ferocious racket and most people didn’t get it,” Smith told The Quietus in 2020. “But some did!”

30-Minuten Männercreme by To Live And Shave In L.A.

Smith’s longest-lived project emerged when he moved to Miami in 1991 and met musician and producer Frank “Rat Bastard” Falestra. The pair named their band To Live and Shave in L.A. after a Ron Jeremy porn film. “It fit into my aesthetics,” Smith said of the band’s name in 2020. “High and low, stupid but immediate.” The band’s 1994 debut 30​-​Minuten Männercreme was a dizzying barrage of cut-and-paste audio, influenced by Public Enemy’s production team The Bomb Squad, and produced by Smith during his off-hours as an audio engineer at the TV network Telemundo. Reissuing the album in 2010, Hanson Records founder Aaron Dilloway called it “a masterpiece that blew my teenage mind wide open… letting all the world’s sickness and perversion sneak in and pollute it.”

In 2004 To Live and Shave in L.A. recorded Noon and Eternity at Sonic Youth’s New York recording studio, with an expanded group that included Moore on guitar and Andrew W.K. on drums. Their final album, As Gods Are Skinned, came out in 2019, inspired by what Smith termed “the absolute calamity that befell humanity in 2016 and the fetid hell we sank into. Why not channel that into music?”

Based in Germany for many years, Smith was prolific until the end of his life, releasing work through his own Karl Schmidt Verlag label. His enthusiasm for collaboration made him a mentor to generations of experimental musicians. “I got the sense that he had been through it all, done everything we had done, thought everything we had thought… synthesizing these higher approaches that we could barely fathom,” Andrew W.K. told The Wire in 2008. “And it was so inspiring, the idea that this guy was doing exactly what he wanted to do, making sounds and music that I had never imagined before.”

“Music should ideally be entropic,” Smith told The Wire. “[It] should move in all dimensions and spatial configurations, and it should f****** kick a** while doing so.”

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90 tons of U.S. military aid arrives in Ukraine as border tensions with Russia rise

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90 tons of U.S. military aid arrives in Ukraine as border tensions with Russia rise

Members of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv. Tensions remain high between Ukraine and Russia as the United States and its NATO allies have tried to intervene diplomatically.

Efrem Lukatsky/AP

Efrem Lukatsky/AP

Continued tensions between Ukraine and Russia have led to the U.S. providing 90 tons of military aid that arrived in Ukraine, as roughly 100,000 Russian troops remain stationed along the border.

The shipment is part of the additional $200 million of “lethal aid” approved by President Biden in late December and includes ammunition for Ukraine’s frontline defenders, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv tweeted. Overall, the U.S. has provided $650 million in defense equipment and services to Ukraine in the last year — the most it has ever given that country, according to the State Department.

“The United States and its allies and partners are standing together to expedite security assistance to Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a tweet on Friday. “We are utilizing all available security cooperation tools to help Ukraine bolster its defenses in the face of Russian aggression.”

And it comes after Blinken visited Kyiv and met with his Kremlin counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in Switzerland earlier this week.

“We didn’t expect any major breakthroughs to happen today,” Blinken said at a news conference following his meeting Friday with Lavrov in Geneva. “But I believe we are now on a clear path in terms of understanding each other’s concerns and each other’s positions.”

Russia has continued to insist on a written guarantee that Ukraine won’t join NATO. Blinken said he made the U.S. position clear, which is to “stand firmly with Ukraine in support of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Blinken said that any military action on Russia’s side would “be met with swift, severe, and a united response from the United States and our partners and allies.” Russia has denied any intention of invading.

Biden clarified his message after news conference

In his lengthy news conference Wednesday at the White House, Biden seemed to complicate the message from his own Secretary of State, saying that if Russia committed a “minor incursion” there might be a divide among NATO allies on how to respond to the aggression.

“I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades. And it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do,” Biden said.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy swiftly responded on Twitter saying, “We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations.”

On Thursday, Biden clarified his stance saying any invasion would be met with a “severe and coordinated” economic response.

“If any — any — assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion,” Biden said. “Let there be no doubt at all that if [Russian President Vladimir] Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price.”

Blinken reiterated the president’s stance in a tweet Saturday, after a conversation with Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly.

“We remain committed to diplomacy but are ready, in coordination with NATO Allies and partners, to impose severe costs for further Russian aggression,” he said.

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The cuatro players of C4 Trio are the future of Venezuela’s national instrument

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The cuatro players of C4 Trio are the future of Venezuela’s national instrument

The members of C4 Trio, L-R: Rodner Padilla, Edward Ramírez, Héctor Molina and Jorge Glem

José Blanco /Courtesy of GroundUP Music

José Blanco /Courtesy of GroundUP Music

The Venezuelan group C4 Trio has taken the national instrument of their homeland, the four-string cuatro, to new heights. They’ve recorded seven albums, collaborated with singer Rubén Blades and, in 2019, won two Latin Grammys for their album with salsa singer Luis Enrique, Tiempo al Tiempo.

The title of a new book about C4, written by Venezuelan journalist Gerardo Guarache Ocque, sums up the essence of the singular group: La Leyenda de los Cuatros Explosivos. The group — composed of cuatro players Edward Ramírez, Héctor Molina and Jorge Glem, as well as bass player Rodner Padilla — is a legend, and their music is an explosion of sounds.

Edward Ramírez says what brought them together was a strong desire to play music that was not from Venezuela, on the Cuatro. “But we also wanted to challenge ourselves and play Venezuelan music from a different point of view, and play other music genres with the Cuatro” Ramírez says. “We wanted to find new ways for the cuatro to expand its palette, so that the possibilities of the instrument would continue to grow.”

In 2005, Ramírez, Glem and Molina were each invited to play solo pieces at a concert in Caracas. Each musician is from a different region of Venezuela, and they admired each other’s style. After rehearsing a few tunes together to play at the end of the concert, they liked the sound of the multiple cuatros so much that they decided to form a group. The following year, they recorded their first album and adopted C4 as their name, in reference both to the cuatro and the guitar group known as G3. Their self-titled album launched their career. Bass player Rodner Padilla joined them in 2009.

The cuatro is a small, guitar-like instrument, with four nylon strings. It’s played across the country, in many different styles of music. Every Venezuelan family has a cuatro hanging on the wall, says Héctor Molina. “It’s undergone a huge development in recent years,” he says. “We always say that we’re a consequence of the work that’s been done for the instrument by masters such as Jacinto Pérez, Hernán Gamboa, Fredy Reyna and Cheo Hurtado. They’re major figures of the Cuatro and musicians who have helped to expand the sonic possibilities of the instrument.”

Ramírez, Molina, Padilla and Glem are now based in Miami, due to the political and economic climate in Venezuela. “It’s a very tough situation and we hope that this nightmare ends soon so we can go back and do concerts in Venezuela,” Glem says.

José Blanco/Courtesy of GroundUP Music

José Blanco/Courtesy of GroundUP Music

Musician and producer Michael League invited C4 to play at the GroundUp Music Festival in Miami Beach a few years ago. The festival is run by League’s GroundUp Music, the group’s new label. “C4 is like the group that our festival was made for,” says League. “It’s a group that maybe a lot of people don’t know about, outside of their kind of niche, in the music world. But it is impossible to see them play and not remember them for the rest of your life.”

League co-produced C4’s forthcoming new album, Back to 4. He says the group has one foot in tradition, one foot in innovation, and the desire to mix and constantly add colors to their palette. “These guys can make their instrument sound like a conga or a flute. They’re not bound by the tradition. And I’m not an expert in that tradition, but just from five minutes of speaking with them, you can tell that their heads are as much in the future as they are in the past.”

As the social, political and economic situation got more complicated in Venezuela, the members of C4 realized they had to move somewhere else to keep the group alive.

In 2014, C4’s bass player, Rodner Padilla, migrated to Miami. Glem went to New York in 2016, and Molina arrived in Miami the following year. Ramírez first migrated to Colombia in 2017, and then moved to Miami last year.

Now, the group is together again, based in Miami, home to the largest Venezuelan immigrant community in the U.S. Glem says despite the ongoing difficulties in Venezuela, they remain positive and hopeful. “Wherever we go, we try to put on the most beautiful face of our country and we do whatever we can to help our folks back home,” he says. “It’s a very tough situation and we hope that this nightmare ends soon so we can go back and do concerts in Venezuela.” Glem says the cuatro is their flag and they just want to play music, in their own, sometimes explosive, way.

A documentary on the group, 10 years

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