By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza
The yaraví is an Andean rhythm with Inca roots and deep Spanish and mestizo influences. It originated and spread in the department of Arequipa (southern Peru) and is said to be related to similar rhythms such as the triste (departments of La Libertad, Lambayeque, Piura and Cajamarca, northern Peru) and the muliza (departments of Pasco and Junín, central Peru).
During the Tawantinsuyu period, the arawi, harawi or jarawi was both an individual and/or collective expression of deep sorrow with mournful, farewell connotations, and a song of festive nature played while sowing or harvesting crops, roofing houses, etc. It was a song to life, love, sorrow, cheer, and emotional attachments to the family, the land, and the house. According to Frey Martín de Murúa (author of the "Historia General del Perú", ca. 1616), it was sung at sowing time, while Cristóbal de Molina ("Relación de las fábulas y ritos de los Incas", ca. 1575) states that it was played at festive occasions such as the aymoray, the corn harvest in May. According to chroniclers, it could either be vocal or accompanied by instruments like tinyas, antaras, pinkillos and quena-quenas. Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala ("Nueva corónica y buen gobierno", ca. 1615) mentions several types of arawi: "uaritza-aravi", "aravi-manca", "taqui-cahuia-haylli-aravi"... Bernabé Cobo explained that it was far from being sad, on the contrary: "los [cantares] que eran de regocijo se decían arabis" ("those [songs] of rejoicing were konwn as arabis"). And the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega even included an example in his book "Comentarios Reales de los Incas" (ca. 1609): "Caylla llapi / puñunqui. / Chaupituta / samusac".
González Holguín ("Vocabulario de la lengua general de todo el Perú", 1608) refers to "haraui" as "cantares de hechos de otros o memoria de los amados ausentes y de amor y afición, y agora se ha recibido por cantares devotos y espirituales" (literally, "songs of others’ deeds or to the memory of loved ones, and love songs and fondness songs, that have now become pious and spiritual songs"). For his part, Torres Rubio ("Arte de la lengua quichua", 1619) regarded "haraui" as "song".
At the time of the Spanish conquest and the subsequent colonial period, the harawi stopped being a collective expression of joy or sorrow to be blended with Spanish folk ballads (romances). As a result, a new musical genre was born, the yaraví criollo, which has ever remained associated to a place (Arequipa, Peru) and a social class: the lonccos or criollo peasants. This yaraví, in time, became a love cry with a distinctive poetic structure and minor pentatonic melody, which used to be played by two male voices accompanied by guitars and bandurrias.
By the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, the yaraví was one of the favourite rhythms of the Romantic Nationalistic Movement in Peru. The poet Mariano Melgar (1790-1815) "discovered" it in the picanterías (taverns) of Arequipa and used it as the basis of his tragic love complaints, turning it into a definitely sad rhythm. As it seems, it was at this time when the yaraví "intrinsic sadness" was associated with the "indigenous soul", sad humour, humble origins and frugal food (an association well documented in several articles appeared in the "Mercurio Peruano" between 1791 and 1795). Lyrics were then changed to become a story of doves and turtledoves which fly away and lose each other's love, a story of tears and regret.
It was not until the beginning of the 20th century, that the Peruvian composer Benigno Ballón Farfán (1892-1957) structured the yaraví arequipeño. Nowadays, this rhythm is very popular in the departments of Arequipa, Huamanga, Cusco and Huánuco (Peru).
This tradition is also widely spread in Ecuador (where many duets included it in their repertoire) and, to a lesser extent, in Bolivia, Chile and Argentine.
Video 01. "Puñales" (Ecuadorian yaraví), by Dúo Benítez-Valencia.
Video 02. "Palomita, ¿dónde vais?" (Arequipa yaraví), by Elena Rojas y Edmundo Loayza.
Video 03. "Mis sufrimientos" (Ayacucho yaraví), by Manuel Ángel Vásquez.
Video 04. "Dos suspiros" (Arequipa yaraví), by Los Errantes de Chuquibamba.
Video 05. "Amargura" (Arequipa yaraví), by Rebeca Pacheco.
Video 06. "Sonkoyman" (instrumental yaraví), by Los Koyas.
Video 07. "A mi madre", by Oswaldo Castillo.