Land of winds. Digital magazine on Andean music. Header picture
History of the Andean music
    Land of winds > Music > History | Issue 11 (Jul.-Aug.2012)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Approaching the Andean Carnival music

Approaching the Andean Carnival music

Within the Christian calendar there is a period of forty days called Lent. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. It is supposed to be a time of reflection and prayer, marked by fasting and other pious or penitential practices. During the European Middle Ages, a festival was celebrated before the Lent’s beginning, where debauchery, gluttony, lust, drunkenness, dissolution, and unrestraint were common, which would allegedly come from the Roman Saturnalia and Bacchanalia. The origin of Carnival is thought to be in those days before Lent, when all rich food and drink had to be disposed of in a giant party that involved the whole community. However, some Carnival traditions may date back to pre-Christian times since many local Carnival customs are based on local rituals (Celtic, pre-Hispanic indigenous). In addition, other festivals may have been absorbed into modern Carnival which takes place at the end of Februray or the beggining of March.

In the Andes, this festival was imposed by Spanish conquerors and missionaries in the 16th century. Along the entire mountain range, Carnival celebrations (as a Christian festival) sought to absorb native peoples’ beliefs and rites (such as the Pawkar Raymi of Ecuador). However, the attempt was futile in its stance to do away with ancient traditions, and the European festival ended up mingling up with local customs in a characteristic and unique manner.

Approaching the Andean Carnival music

According to the Andean view of the world, there is an "upper-world" (in Quechua hanaqpacha, in Aymara alaxpacha), an "under-world" (in Quechua ukupacha, in Aymara manqapacha) and the world inhabited by human beings (in Quechua kaypacha, in Aymara akapacha). The "under-world" is home to the dead, the owners of the music (like the Sereno), the saqra (dark spirits) and the "owners of the mines" (in Aymara, anchanchu).

The Catholic missionaries that arrived with the Spanish Conquistadors to the Andes, took advance of this spatial division trying to establish parallels to the concepts of "heaven" and "hell". The hanaqpacha/alaxpacha was therefore populated with angels and archangels while the ukupacha/manqapacha was turned into a dangerous place inhabited by demons. Since in the Andean view of the world there was no such thing as "hell" (nor the idea of "heaven") indigenous peoples assimilated the Christian devil with a "mischievous" character.

As time went by, a kind of syncretism grew between Christian symbols and indigenous deities. One example of this is the symbiosis between the Pachamama, Mother Earth, and the Virgin Mary. Likewise, the anchanchu (linked to an ancient deity known as Wari) was identified with the western Devil, which is known as "el Tío" (literally, "the uncle") in present-day Bolivia.

All these characters became part of the Andean Carnival celebrations, though the importance given to their role varies from place to place.

Since time immemorial, rural Andean communities celebrated their important festivals during the annual period known in Aymara as jallu pacha and in Quechua as ruphay pacha, coinciding with the rainy and hot season from November (All Saints Festival) to February (Carnival). The colonial authorities banned those and many other festivals on the grounds that they were idolatrous and pagan celebrations. They did not disappear, but rather stayed hidden under Christian disguises and names. Most of the festivals held during the jallu pacha period took shelter under the umbrella of Carnival, which brought together fertility and gratitude ceremonies and the ones meant for the under-world creatures, those "devils" regarded as the owners of fun and music.

Carnival, in Wikipedia.
Article. "La fiesta de Carnaval en los Andes", by Guillermo Llerena [es].
Article. "El carnaval en los Andes, espacio de vida y muerte", in La Razón [es].
Article. "El carnaval: una fiesta popular por excelencia", in El Diario de los Andes [es].
Article. "Anata o carnaval andino", by David Mendoza Salazar [es].
Article. "La anata, carnaval andino", in Compartiendo culturas [es].

Approaching the Andean Carnival music

The most important Carnival celebrations in the Bolivian Andes are those of Oruro, Tarija, La Paz, Potosí, Vallegrande and Cochabamba. There the festival is known as anata (in Aymara) or jatun raymi (in Quechua). The Carnival of Oruro is one of UNESCO’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. It is observed in honour of the Virgen de la Candelaria (Virgin of the Candle Mass, also called "Virgen del Socavón”, Virgin of the Mineshaft) and features the ceremonial dance known as Diablada (a representation of good forces against evil, a blend of Catholic and indigenous iconography, which is said to be derived from an old dance called "lama lama"). Over 30,000 dancers, 10,000 musicians and half a million people attend annually, overcrowding the city and turning the streets into a stage on which Carnival groups (in Spanish, "comparsas") perform different types of traditional rhythms and Bolivian folkloric dances such as morenadas, caporales, tinkus and kullahuadas.

In Tarija, Carnival includes the so-called "encuentros de comadres y compadres" (known as "topamientos" in Argentina, meetings of mates male/male, female/female, female/male), round dances, racy songs and the presence of local traditional musical instruments such as the erque, the erkencho, the caja and the kamacheña. The Carnival of La Paz resembles that held in Oruro, with spectacular carnival processions and street dances, among which highlights the dance of the ch'utas. Although the musical scene is dominated by traditional rhythms from the capital region’s own repertoire, popular morenadas, caporales and sayas are also part of this celebration to the delight of mass audiences. In Potosí the festival is known as "Carnaval Minero" or "Bajada del Tata K'ajchu" ("Miner’s Carnival" or "Descent of the Tata K'ajchu"): thousands of mine workers pay tribute to their "father" K'ajchu with music and dance from the Quechua-speaking region of Bolivia. The Carnival of Vallegrande (department of Santa Cruz) is renowned by its famous "coplas picantes" (racy songs), while that of Cochabamba (called "Carnaval valluno" or "Corso de los Corsos") is best known for its streets parades.

Approaching the Andean Carnival music

In Bolivia, during the last two decades, many folkloric groups have included Carnival songs in their repertoire and recordings. Los Kjarkas, Proyección or Tupay are among many bands that have released whole albums dedicated to Carnival, while other artists (both national and international) have focussed on particular local or regional features, of various festivals, such as the Carnival of Betanzos (Inkallajta, Jach'a Mallku, Rijchariy, Rimay's, Alejandro Cámara and Semilla group), the Carnival of Vallegrande (Inti de Bolivia, Proyección Kjarkas), the Carnival of Uyuni (Luis Rico, Música de Maestros), the Carnival of Achiri (Boliviamanta), the Carnival of Potosí (Eric Terrades, Florindo Alvis), the Carnival of Oruro (Malkuri, Marcelo Peña), the Carnival of Tarija (Enriqueta Ulloa) or the Carnival of Chichas (Mario Anagua). In addition, some of the most popular rhythms at Carnival in Bolivia, such as the ch'utas, morenadas, "carnavales vallunos" and caporales, have been featured on the albums of numerous other groups like Yara, Alaxpacha, Ch'uwa Yacu, Los Masis, Aldana, Fortaleza, Maya Andina, Andino de Oruro, Awatiñas, Yuri Ortuño, Bonanza, Hiru Hicho, Chuma Q'hantati, Grupo Coca, Grupo Femenino Bolivia, Chuymampi, Ayopayamanta, K'ala Marka, Mallku de los Andes, Rumillajta, Savia Andina, Amaru, Zulma Yugar and Betty Veizaga.

Carnival in Bolivia, en Wikipedia [es].
The Carnival of Oruro, in Wikipedia.
Diablada ("Dance of the Devils"), in Wikipedia.

Picture 01. The Carnival of Oruro.
Picture 02. Diablada of Oruro.
Picture 03. Morenada of Oruro.
Picture 04. The Carnival of Tarija.
Picture 05. The Carnival of Potosí 01.
Picture 06. The Carnival of Potosí 02.
Picture 07. The Carnival of Potosí 03.
Picture 08. The Carnival of Cochabamba.

Approaching the Andean Carnival music

In Argentina, Andean Carnival celebrations mostly occur in the north-western region of the country, especially in the provinces of Jujuy, Salta and La Rioja. One of the best known is the Carnival of the Quebrada de Humahuaca (Jujuy), which has inspired many songs over the years (perhaps most famously "El humahuaqueño" and "El quebradeño"), though this festival is celebrated regionwide with local variants abounding both in the puna (Casabindo) and the eastern valleys (Iruya). The Humahuaca festivities last eight days and eight nights, from the exhumation of the pujllay (the most common expression of the devil during the Carnival, a figure that symbolizes the spirit of this festival) till its burial the Sunday of temptation, along which locals and visitors will enjoy with flour and water games, regional dishes and drinks, bands and street dancers, large "comparsas" of anateros (tarka players) and zampoñeros (panpipes players), and several musical events. In La Rioja, the festival is called "chaya riojana". This celebration resembles that of Humahuaca in several ways; however, it also retains old local traditions and includes a musical repertoire which is slightly different from the one performed in Jujuy. Finally, in the Calchaquí Valleys (province of Salta) Carnival takes on different hues of the area’s music: old vidalas and bagualas are sung to the accompaniment of traditional cajas and erkenchos.

Jaime Torres, Fortunato Ramos, Los Tekis, Los de Jujuy, Los Laikas, Tomás Lipán, Gustavo Patiño and Sergio Galleguillo are among the musicians that have best carried on the Carnival spirit. Likewise, Mariana Carrizo is probably today’s best exponent of the coplas and vidalas, though we cannot forget the ethnographic research work by Leda Valladares, which has influenced many contemporary Argentine musicians.

Carnival in Argentina, in Wikipedia [es].
The Carnival of Humahuaca, in Wikipedia [es].
Article. "La chaya riojana", in Nuestras Raíces [es].

Picture 09. The Carnival of Humahuaca 01.
Picture 10. The Carnival of Humahuaca 02.
Picture 11. The Carnival of Tilcara (Jujuy) 01.
Picture 12. The Carnival of Tilcara (Jujuy) 02.
Picture 13. The Carnival of Calchaquí Valleys.

Approaching the Andean Carnival music

Special mention deserves the Blacks and Whites' Carnival (Spanish "Carnaval de Negros y Blancos"), the largest and most important celebration in southern Colombia, which was first celebrated in the city of San Juan de Pasto (department of Nariño) and in 2009 was recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Another famous festival in this country is the Carnival of Riosucio (department of Caldas) known as "Devil’s Carnival", with a mixture of native, European and African traditions.

Carnival in Colombia, en Wikipedia.
Blacks and Whites’ Carnival, in Wikipedia.
The Carnival of Riosucio, in Wikipedia [es].

Approaching the Andean Carnival music

In Chile, the Andean Carnival is mostly celebrated in the Norte Grande (Chilean Big/Far North comprising the regions of Arica y Parinacota, Tarapacá and Antofagasta), which is part of the Aymara speaking area of the country and where this festival is called anata. Celebrations in Putre and Socoroma are famous for bringing together large groups of tarkas, sikus (panpipes) and lichiguayos. Other well-known festivals take place in Chiapa, Iquique, Mamiña and Calama. Although less traditional than the previous ones, Arica is home to the international Carnival "Con la fuerza del Sol", which is joined by "comparsas" and "fraternidades" (brotherhoods) coming from many points of the regions as well as other regions and countries such as Bolivia and Peru. In the Norte Chico (Chilean Small/Near North regions of Atacama and Coquimbo) the "Santo Carnaval" is rooted in local traditions from the Atacama and Diaguita culture.

The Chilean group Illapu rescued many cultural expressions from the Carnival of Chiapa (alongside composer Osvaldo Torres) as well as from other neighbouring villages of their homeland. They have not been alone in their pursuit: many Chilean folkloric groups have echoed the sounds of the Norte Grande, including the Conjunto Folklórico de la Universidad del Norte, Inti-Illimani, Kamac Pacha Inti, Curacas, Markamaru, Guamary, Arak Pacha, Chañar, Quilapayún, Huara and Chuccuruma.

Culture of Chile ("Carnavales" section), in Wikipedia [es].
International Andean Carnival “Con la Fuerza del Sol” Inti Ch'amampi, in Wikipedia [es].
Article. "El Santo Carnaval Atacameño, la tradición de la alegría", in LoActual [es].

Picture 14. Carnival in Norte Grande (Chilean Big North, Far North).
Picture 15. The Carnival of Atacama.
Picture 16. The Carnival of Arica.

Approaching the Andean Carnival music

In Peru, the list of festivals recognized for their cultural value that have been declared as "National Cultural Heritage" include the "Carnaval Chico" or "Kashua de San Sebastián" celebrated in Juliaca (department of Puno), the Carnival of Ayacucho (in Spanish, "Carnaval ayacuchano", department of Ayacucho), the Carnival of Santiago de Pupuja (department of Puno), the Carnival of San Pablo (department of Cusco), the Carnival of Abancay and the Carnival of Marco (department of Junin). Yet the most popular ones are the Carnival of Huanta and the Carnival of Huamanga (in Spanish, "Carnaval huantino" and "huamanguino" respectively, department of Ayacucho), the Carnival of Apurimac and the Carnival of Andahuaylas (in Spanish, "Carnaval apurimeño" and "andahuaylino" respectively, department of Apurimac), the Carnival of Huancavelica (in Spanish, "Carnaval huancavelicano", department of Huancavelica), the Carnival of Cajamarca (in Spanish, "Carnaval cajamarquino", department of Cajamarca) and the Carnival of Puno, which takes place at the same time as the Virgin of the Candelaria Festival.

Celebrations include parades of "pandillas", "patrullas" and comparsas (well-known and probably most spectacular are those participating in the Carnival of Puno); water, talcum powder and paint games; traditional dishes and drinks (i.e. famous "chicha de jora", made from a yellow type of maize called jora); racy carnival songs; the unsha, yunsa or "cortamontes" (a ceremonial tree loaded with presents); sports like the paki (fist fighting) or the siqullu or "secollo" (duel of whips); characters like the "Ño Carnavalón" (the spirit of the festival); and traditional dances to the music of different regional groups.

In Puno, some of the most popular carnival rhythms are the pandilla puneña, the Carnival of Arapa, the Carnival of Qopamayo, the q'ajelo (k'ajelo, karabotas), the wifala, tarkeadas, chakalladas, pinkilladas and ch'ullas, while carnavales huamanguinos, huaylarsh and huaynos are typical in the Sierra Central.

Some highlights within the Peruvian repertoire include the music associated with the Carnival of Icho (by Conjunto Orquestal Puno), Tinta (Conjunto Perú Folklórico, Raymond Thevenot), Arequipa (Inkaquenas, Grupo Blanco y Negro), Chanka (Los Chankas), Socca (Alejandro Vivanco, Centro Musical Teodoro Valcárcel), Canas (Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo), Apurímac (Quillapas), Ampay (Perumanta), Turpo (Expresión Andina), Aandahuaylas (Dúo Andahuaylas), Arapa (Cuerdas del Lago, Takillakta), Tambobamba (Lira Paucina, Martina Portocarrero), and Canaybamba (Conjunto Condemayta de Acomayo).

Carnival in Perú, in Wikipedia [es].
The Carnival of Cajamarca, in Wikipedia [es].
The Carnival of Ayacucho, in Wikipedia [es].
The Carnival of Juliaca, in Wikipedia [es].
The Carnival of Tacna, in Wikipedia [es].
The Carnival of San Pablo, in Wikipedia [es].
Article. "Carnavales huantinos", in Armonía Huanta [es].

Picture 17. Kashua de San Sebastián (dance).
Picture 18. The Carnival of Ayacucho.
Picture 19. The Carnival of Huanta.
Picture 20. The Carnival of Abancay.
Picture 21. The Carnival of Puno 01.
Picture 22. The Carnival of Puno 02.

Whilst it is not possible to summarize in this article all these cultural and musical expressions, these initial strokes of the brush will give readers a first insight and hopefully open the door for further research into the Andean Carnival and what makes it so vibrant and exciting.

Picture A | Picture B | Picture C | Picture D | Picture E | Picture F | Picture G | Picture H

> Top    |    > Music    |    > Cover    |    > En español

Disclaimer of Land of windsEditorial staff of Land of winds