The keepers of criollo music
The source of LA GRAN REUNIÓN
There was a time when Lima had a different pace. When you knew your neighbour’s first name and life revolved around what was nearby: the family, the neighbourhood. Time went by slowly, and the basic pleasure of singing and dancing wasn’t reserved for the few privileged; it was everybody’s right and duty. However, as often happens, some had a special gift. It was they who became the advocates of Lima’s purest musical manifestation; it is they who embody the roots of criollo music. Their offspring and disciples have prevailed until today. They are the keepers of the tradition; those who, far from the spotlights, carry in their throat and heart the source of a forgotten knowledge.
Many of them have already left us. It was in order to rescue the jewels of original criollo music –in its utmost purity and quality– from the relentless passage of time that LA GRAN REUNIÓN was conceived. In its two volumes it unites, for the very first time in the history of criollo music, nineteen singers that embody the original spirit of the genre. You will not find here its stars and celebrities, but the artisans of criollo music, those who continue to perform it as in the beginning: only among friends, only when the time is right. “We were looking for the flavour of the neighbourhood”, says the producer, Fernando Urquiaga. These singers, who were tracked down in musical centres –which persist, to the knowledge of few–, responded enthusiastically to the invitation to participate in a project that would revalue their contribution to Peruvian culture. In a time when age inspires more disdain than respect, this project places these great singers –whose average age is 70– in their rightful place in the musical hall of fame and the listener’s heart.
The enormous documentary value of this production is on a par with its charm and warmth. After all, music as direct and endearing as this cannot but find an immediate echo in those who hear it. And even the most rebellious teenager can find himself reflected in the torrid lamentations, the festive roguery and the irreverent lyrics of these singers who approach –and, in certain cases, exceed- the eight decades. It is a reminder that, in fact, we have much to learn from our elders; much more than we thought. These old style singers, who are far from plagued by autograph collectors and who leave their homes only to sing, among friends, in a musical centre, are the ones who guard in their voices the soul of tradition.
“When they die, authentic criollo music will die with them”, says Urquiaga. “The source of knowledge will die. They are the ones who have the repertoire, the way of singing. They know, for example, how a polka from La Victoria is played; they can hear a song and say, ‘that is a Barrios Altos cadence’. When they leave us, all that knowledge will disappear.” Preserving it is the goal of LA GRAN REUNIÓN, which places Lima’s original music in the hands of those who will come to know, enjoy and, without a doubt, love it.