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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The Journey Begins

Well, the day has (almost) finally arrived.  After submitting my Peace Corps application almost a year and a half ago, I am finally about to begin my journey as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  I am headed for Peru, the land of mountains, potatoes, llamas, and the Incas, as a Community-Based Environmental Education Volunteer.

This adventure has been a long time coming, after submitting my initial application nearly a year and a half ago, and spending the last 9 months living and working at home.  I am excited to be off (after a one night pit stop in DC), although admittedly the gravity of the situation still evades my grasp.  In the days and weeks leading up to my departure, I have tried to meditate on what I’m about to do, on how my life is going to change, yet each time I do so, I am met with an invisible wall, leaving comprehension just beyond my reach.  How can one possibly understand such a radical divergence from everyday life?

What I do know, however, is that this experience will be unlike anything I have faced before.  It will be full of challenges, tears, laughter, awkward cultural exchanges, scenic vistas, parasites, wonderful food, amazing people, and unimaginable opportunities.  I chose to apply to the Peace Corps because I wanted to be challenged, because I wanted to travel, because I wanted to use Spanish, and most importantly because I wanted to invest in, engage with and assist international communities in ways both small and large.  I will be gone for 27 months.  I will certainly miss my loving family, I will certainly miss my incredible friends, and I will certainly miss burritos (San Diego spoiled me, Brian), but I will certainly gain innumerable and invaluable experiences.

Here’s to new friends, grand adventures, meaningful work, and lots of fun!

Allons-y,

Mark