Martes de Música: Shaqsha

For today’s Martes de Música, we are covering a traditional dance of Áncash, the Shaqsha. But Mark, this is Martes de Música, not Martes de Baile, why are you talking about a dance on a post about music? Well, anonymous reader, that is because the Shaqsha is not just a mere dance, but also a way for creating percussion music.

You see, not any person can just go out and dance the shaqsha like it were breakdancing, the tango, or even salsa. In order to dance the shaqsha, you need to have the proper accessories. Below, you can take a look at a fairly standard attire for shaqsha dancers.

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The first item of note is the crown, which is believed to have been used to poke fun at the royal Spanish family who once controlled Perú. The shirt and kilt-like clothes are also intended as parodies, mimicking the clothing worn by the early Spanish Conquistadores. In the hands of some of the dancers, you will also note whips, which could be a reference to the farming lifestyles of the past.

However, the most important accessory to the shaqsha is what you see around the legs of each of the dancers in the photo above; the shaqapas. What you are seeing is more or less a ton of small dried seed pods tied together with string which is then fastened around the legs and occasionally the arms of each dancer. The shaqapas are integral to the shaqsha, because as the dancer moves, the seed pods and the seeds inside shake, creating a vibrant and entrancing sound, a sound which is generally interpreted as “shac shac”, hence the name of the dance. So you see, the Shaqsha is as much as a dance as it is a musical style, with the shaking of the seeds creating a beautiful sound.

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The dance itself is incredibly energetic, involving lots of hopping, jumping, screaming, and foot pounding. Honestly, it looks absolutely exhausting, and I can’t imagine how shaqsha dancers manage to keep up their energy in the intense sierra sun. The dance is generally performed during religious festivals here in Áncash, with the shaqsha groups being accompanied by a small group of musicians playing wooden flutes and drums. The photos above are from a religious festival celebrating the Virgin Mary held at my local school in Yuracoto, I.E. Estenio Torres Ramos.

Shaqsha is my absolute favorite dance here in Perú, and I’m hoping to eventually try it out with the help of some of my students in Yuracoto. With one year left in my service, I feel like I should be able to squeeze in a little time for a practice or two (or five). So to finish out this post, I leave you with a video of some Shaqsha performed in Yuracoto last week so you can fully appreciate this entrancing dance and enjoy the melodious sounds of the shaqapas.

 

Until next time,

MGB

 

 

 

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Martes de Música: Reggaetón

So the musical genre Reggaetón is not a Peruvian innovation. In fact, when I asked my host uncle if there were any famous Peruvian Reggaetón songs, he simply said, “jaja no”. So if this blog is supposed to be about Perú, why am I talking about Reggaetón, you might ask?

Well, while Reggaetón did not come from Perú, it certainly came into Perú, and is currently one of the most popular musical genres among Peru’s jóvenes (young people). This past Friday, my local school held an event for Teacher Day, and I somehow got put in charge of the music (probably because I had my laptop). While I tried to get everyone interested in the english pop songs on my playlist or the few cumbia songs I had downloaded, within a short span of time I had about 15 different students come ask me to put on some Reggaetón.

So, what exactly is Reggaetón? Well, it is a genre that emerged from the fusion of Jamaican reggae music with pop music, first manifesting in Panamá and then hitting the mainstream and gaining popularity from further innovations in Puerto Rico. I would guess that most people are probably aware of the connection between Reggaetón and Puerto Rico, at least peripherally. Anyways, most Reggaetón music can be recognized by its killer beats, pulsing electronic sounds, and Spanish lyrics, which are generally rapped as opposed to being sung. Additionally, there is a sort of repetition to most Reggaetón songs, whether in beat or lyrics, which makes them great for dancing and quick to learn for those who want to sing along. If you were to hop into a nightclub anywhere in Perú, and possibly anywhere in Latin America, you would probably encounter several Reggaetón songs throughout the night.

So, to introduce you all to the world of Reggaetón, we have Ginza by J. Balvin which is the quintessential Reggaetón song of 2016. Seriously, absolutely ALL the jóvenes are listening to this song.

Hope you enjoyed the music!

Until next time,

MGB

Martes de Música: Huayno Ancashino

Once again, my Martes de Música comes a tad late, but internet isn’t always available, and so you do the best that you can.

This week we return to the world of Huayno, a type of Peruvian folk music from the Andes. The singer and song featured this week are fairly representative of Huaynos Ancashinos, or Huaynos from Áncash, the department where I work. While many younger people enjoy Cumbia and Reggaeton, most of the older population, especially in more rural areas, are fans of Huayno all the time. There are many radio stations that play puro huayno (only Huayno), and it is extremely common to hear Huayno on everyone’s radios as I walk around my community.

This style of music is also quite popular at town fiestas (parties), where everyone will dance Huayno along with the music. Dancing to Huaynos generally means casually stomping your feet while moving back and forth, never looking your dance partner in the eye, and then stomping more vigorously when the music gets more jovial, about 2/3 of the way through.

So for this week, enjoy a traditional Andean Huayno.

I must say, while at first I was not a fan of Huayno, the style quickly grew on me (and many other Volunteers).

I hope you enjoyed the music.

Until next time,

MGB

Martes de Música: Festejo

When most people think of Peru, they probably think of Spanish, Machu Picchu, the rain forest, and maybe the Incas.  But what most people probably don’t think about is Africans. Unfortunately, Perú and many South American countries were largely involved in the slave trade after the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores. Consequently, many South American countries like Peru and Brazil have a very large groups of people from African descent. Here in Peru, people of African descent are generally known as Afro-Peruanos, and typically are the result of a blending of the African slaves and the indigenous peoples, often referred to as mestizo or criollo.

While slavery has long since ended in Perú, there has still been a lot of discrimination against Afro-Peruvians, to the extent that in 2009 the Peruvian government released an official apology for the years of racial injustice against Afro-Peruvians.  Now, I am no expert on the history of Afro-Peruvians here in Perú, and I will likely be asking a friend to write a guest blog post to give a far better explanation than what I have included here.

While the history of Afro-Peruanos in Perú is not the brightest, the inevitable blending of cultures that occurred between the indigenous people of Perú, the Spanish, and the people from various parts of Africa led to some very interesting cultural developments, most notably in the realms of dance and music. Festejo is a genre of Afro-Peruvian music which has a very distinctive sound due to its heavy reliance on percussion instruments such as the cajón and the lower jawbone of a horse. I really enjoy the music because it has a great beat and just makes you want to dance.

Speaking of dancing, there are an abundance of interesting dances to accompany Afro-Peruvian songs, such as the one I am highlighting today called “El Alcatraz”. While I really enjoy this song and the beat, the best part would have to be the dance which involves a man and a woman dancing after each other, each trying to use a lit candle to burn a paper towel attached to the back of the other dancer’s clothes. I couldn’t find a great video of the dance, so if you are interested in checking it out, just do a quick YouTube search for “El Alcatraz”.

Without further ado, I give you, “El Alcatraz”.

I hope you enjoyed the music!

MGB