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Song Andean music
Land of winds > Music > Song | Issue 04. Mar.-Apr.2011
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

(López, Lavadenz and Burgos. On the album “Mamapacha”, Los Tekis, 2007).

“Carnavaleando” is a playful huayno (actually, a “carnavalito”) that describes typical experiences one might have at a large festival like the Carnival in the Quebrada de Humahuaca (located in the province of Jujuy, in northwest Argentina) celebrated around February. Upon the playing of the charango, the accordion and wind instruments Los Tekis, a well-known musical group formed by several young men from Jujuy, sing the following lines:

Va bajando ya el Carnaval, / cantan las copleras de Humahuaca.
Zapateadito me he de bailar. / Baja, enamorando, olor a albahaca
en sus polleras y en sus trenzas largas, / carnavaleando entre las cajas.
Vuelve la vela, vibra la comparsa, / garganta seca en la Quebrada.

[The Carnival is coming downhill, / the copleras from Humahuaca are already singing.
I should stamp hard on my heels. / It comes down, in love, the smell of basil
in their skirts and their long plaits, / dancing among the cajas.
Round dances are back, the comparsa vibrates, / thirsty throat in the Quebrada.]

Van dos días, falta uno más. / Está perdida la semana.
Sigo bajando, quiero coplear, / ¿dónde están mi poncho y mi guitarra?
Vengo de Uquía, llego a Huacalera / machadito y sin compañera.
Cruzo miradas con viejas chicheras, / aunque sea fiera, que me quiera.

[It’s been two days now, there is still one more to go. / The week is already gone.
I keep coming down, I want to sing coplas, / where are my poncho and my guitar?
Coming from Uquia, I arrive at Huacalera / drunk and without a partner.
I cross eyes with old chicha sellers, / I don’t care how ugly she is as long as she loves me.]

Se me acerca mi comadre, / chichita fresca me viene a invitar.
Llegan chinitas enharinadas, / carguen más vasos que quiero secar.

[My godmother comes near, / she offers me cold chicha.
Here come young women covered with flour, / fill more glasses that I want to down them.]

On the one hand, this song brings to mind Carnival traditions such as the “flour and water games” (that is the reason why the chinitas or young women are covered with flour) and the small bunches of basil decorating hats and lapels, being considered a natural antidote against the macha or drunkenness. The presence of chicha (maize liquor) is remarkable throughout its lyrics, where the expression “secar” (to dry) glasses full of cold chicha is used to mean that drinking this alcoholic beverage alleviates your thirsty throat (“garganta seca”) and increases the number of machaditos or drunken men.
On the other, the song also speaks about love: for what would a Carnival be if you are without a partner (no matter how “fiera”, ugly, she is)? In addition, its lyrics portray cultural traits like traditional items of clothing (i.e. ponchos, “polleras” or skirts) and allude to music by explicitly mentioning “coplas” (verse songs) sung by “copleras” (females “coplas” singers) with accompaniment from guitar and cajas (a sort of drums), “zapateados” (dances whose name refer to the sound of the foot/shoe striking the ground, much like one hears in Flamenco), and “comparsas” (brass bands).
And finally, as in many other carnavalitos from the province of Jujuy, the song includes several names of villages that are located along the Quebrada such as Humahuaca, Uquía and Huacalera.
“Carnavaleando” is, therefore, a very complete description of probably the best-known celebration in northwest Argentina and one of its most popular...

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