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Lyrics Andean music. Chile
    Land of winds > Music > Lyrics | Issue 07 (Sep.-Oct.2011)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Tata San Juan

(Don Eugenio Challapa, ayllu Chulluncane, municipality of Cariquima, Tarapacá region)

“Phusa” or “sicura” is the name given to the panflute (Spanish “zampoña”) in northern Chile, and it is by this name that the music played by the tropas (ensembles) of these instruments, which are called “sicuriadas” or “sikuriadas”, it is known today.

One of the best known sicuras among present-day Chilean musicians is “Tata San Juan”. The song, with arrangements by Horacio Salinas, appeared on Inti-Illimani’s album “Andadas” (1993), and was further popularized afterwards.

However, the story of the song dates back to 1975, when the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage released an album titled “Amerindian music of Chile”. It was a collection of ethnographic materials recorded by Christos Clair-Vasiliades featuring songs and sounds of native peoples of Chile, from the Aymara of the north to the Qawásqar of the south. One of these songs was “Tata San Juan”, sung a capella in Aymara by Eugenio Challapa Challapa, native of the village of Cariquima.

In 1980, researcher and singer-song-writer Osvaldo Torres included “Tata San Juan (canto y baile de sicura)” on his album “Levántate, hijo”. Torres almost repeated Challapa’s verses word for word, though, unlike him, he accompanied his song on the guitar and charango.

Finally, in 2008, Eugenio Challapa, who today is an example of making cultural recovery effort possible in the region of Cariquima, re-founded his homeland sikuriada –lost some time ago– and, backed by FONDART, recorded an album titled “Jichha piniwa (Ahora es cuando). Sikuras estilo Cariquima” including the original version of the sicura “Tata San Juan”, whose lyrics’ belong to him.

Although some misinformed sources describe this song as a “canto de floreo” (refers to the native custom of piercing and adorning cattle ears with flower garlands, especially llamas and vicuñas), such “cantos” have no connection with the zampoñas and are usually accompanied by bandolas (a type of mandolina). “Tata San Juan” is one of the many melodies played by tropas of aerophones (zampoñas lakitas, tarkas, lichiguayos) used in northern Chile to honour the Blessed Virgin and the saints.

The lyrics appeared on Inti-Illimani’s “Andadas” is a faithful copy of Eugenio Challapa’s on “Amerindian music of Chile”. Its transcription and a hypothetical reconstruction of the original text in Aymara can be read below.

Inti-Ilimani’s version (“Andadas”, 1993)

Suma sikur vailind aka / markar hiwasah purhtan
Tata sa huanaru kongortasirih a....
Humas nayas wawanahpatan hiwasan
Aka karikima (ma) rkasaruh a...

Suma ch’ahch’e turulyanahaly / churchistan tata sa huana
Hiwasah suma urup loktatan ukah a...
Humas nayas taque chima (ma) khatañane
Tata san huanan sikur vailipande

[With good dance sikura here / to this town we come
where he is Tata San Juan to kneel.
You and I his babies are
Here in our town Cariquima.

Well-coloured little male lambs / Tata San Juan will give us
If we offer him that good day of his.
You and I if we arrive with all our heart
Where Tata San Juan with his dance sikura].

Hypothetical reconstruction

Suma sikur bailimp aka markar / jiwasa purtan
Tata Sa(n) Juanar qunqurtasirixa.
Jumas nayas wawanapatan jiwasan
Aka Cariquim markasaruxa.

(No transcription)
Jiwasa suma urup luxtatan ukaxa
Jumas nayas, taqi chuymamp (ma)khatañani
Tata Sa(n) Juanan sikur bailipampi

[With good dance sikura here to this town / we come
(before) Tata San Juan to kneel.
You and I, his babies, we
(are) here in our town, Cariquima.

No direct translation)
We offer him that good day of his (that’s how).
You and I, with all our heart will approach
Where Tata San Juan with his dance sikura].

LP “Amerindian music of Chile”.

Song 01. “Tata San Juan”, by Inti-Illimani. On the album “Andadas” (1993).

Video 01. “Tata San Juan” by Inti-Illimani (live).
Video 02. “Tata San Juan”, by Sol y Luna.
Video 03. “Tata San Juan”, by Tanckeray (live).

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