By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza
Norte Potosí appeared in 1985 with the aim of recovering, spreading and, somehow, rehabilitating the traditional music of the Quechua communities of Bolivia, especially the one played in northern Potosí, which is famous for its charangos (stringed instrument) and its coplas sung in Quechua language.
Especially designed for this purpose, the band’s shows usually result in a range of unique, original sounds including traditional woman’s singing (noted for their high-pitched voices and using very particular tunings) and different patterns of strumming for various types of charango (e.g. the khonkhota and the guitarrillas of Potosí). Its repertoire comprises traditional rhythms of Potosí and its surroundings: zapateados or zapateos (in Spanish, “foot stamping”), tonadas, huaynos, kaluyos, jula julas, sikuris, cacharpayas, salaques, q’ochus or k'ochus, rollanos... And their costumes are similar to those worn by the inhabitants of this region at any festive occasion: chalecos, polleras (skirts), hats, tassels and colourful garlands.
The band’s line-up has changed a fair deal over the years with its only constant members being singer Cornelia Veramendi Mamani and her husband, charango player, singer and leader Rubén Porco Herrera. In recent times, the band has been joined by the couple’s children.
Norte Potosí has released “Waritay” (1988), “Llallawa (Chullpa)” (1990), “Llallawa – Ayllu chullpa – Phutucun” (1991), “Lo mejor” (1993), “Norte Potosí” (1993), “Canto por la vida, así es” (1996), “Tras la huella musical de los pueblos quechuas” (1999), “La esencia de lo nuestro” (2001), “Vivirás en mi para siempre” (2004), and “A que no sabes” (2007). Through its works the band has collected unique songs that belong to the tradition of many different places like Chayanta, Tarabuco, Calcha, Charcas, Chicha, Macha and even the Salinas de Garci Mendoza (Bolivia), and has attained significant popular success with songs such as the tonada “Phutucum”, the zapateo “Salaque”, the huayno “Colquechacamanta” and the tonada “Munasq’hetay”.
It is not always easy to listen to and truly understand the sound of Norte Potosí: it may sound unfamiliar and incomprehensible for some people no matter how much they like Andean music. However, it is important to remember that this, and no other, is the original sound of the music of the Quechua communities of Bolivia. And thanks to the tireless work of groups such as Norte Potosí, these songs have reached beyond the boundaries of their communities to feel at home in other people’s mouths and ears.
Link partial discography [Incamusic.narod.ru].
Video 01. “Jiyaway vidita” (live).
Video 02. “Salaque” (live).
Video 03. “Phutucum” (live).
Video 04. “Colquechacamanta” (live).
Video 05. “Salineñita” (live).
Video 06. “Tanto amor” (live).
Video 07. “Munasq’hetay” (live).
Video 08. “Pall pall” (live).
Video 09. “Ch’otoj ch’otoj” (live).
Video 10. “Imilla mala traza” (live).