Devils and chirimías
The story goes that a chirimía (a band of flutes and drums) went to the market of Popayán (capital city of the Cauca department, in the south-western portion of the Colombian Andes) to play its flutes and drums so as to be able to put food on the table that day. Despite their efforts, people passed by but no one gave a single coin. They tried everything –playing joyful tunes, dancing, telling stories between one song and the next– but it was no use. Then, the band's conductor, tired and hopeless, told himself that he would sell his soul to the devil to see his band earning a living with their music. Shortly after appeared the devil himself, dancing and jumping among the people around him and collecting coins in a small bag. Ever since that day, there is not one single chirimía in Popayán that have not included a member disguised as a devil –wearing a red mask topped with horns– and armed with a whip, whose role is to dance, make jokes about the audience, threat them with his whip and collect the money.
It is said that the devil, who enjoys good parties, settled down in the Cauca department. And all one has to do to call on him is invite a chirimía to play.
The Monument to the Chirimía that rises at the entrance of the town of Popayán does not include the characteristic devil. Those who built it might have thought that placing such a figure in a town so pious and devoted to worshipping God as Popayán would be a sin.
Article. "La chirimía y el diablo de Popayán", by Marco A. Valencia Calle. In Proclama del Cauca [es].
Article. "Acerca del fenómeno de transculturación en la música de chirimía en Popayán, Colombia", by Paola Martínez. A Contratiempo, issue 15, July 2010 [es].