Customs

The Day of Creole Song Swings and Soothes in Cuzco

Chabuca Granda

On the 31st of October, Peru celebrates the Day of la Canción Criolla (Creole Song). On this day, from schools, to radios, to public and private events people render homage to the greats of national music, especially those that can fit under the style of Creole Song, and to the style itself. Although celebrated in Cuzco, this event finds mucho more vigor, force, and presence in the city of Lima.

This is not just because Creole Song originates and finds its strongest impression on the coast. That is true, the style is strongly organic to a time and place on the coast when modern nationalism was growing in power and coalescing. It later spread to other parts of Peru as part of that national project, where it encountered other regional musics and song styles that have their own social value and weight.

And, it has been overwhelmed by the power of the international market in music. Hip Hop, reggaeton, salsa, rock, pop, cumbia, and chicha have all weakened Creole Music’s domination of Peru, but the maintenance of the connection to institutions and nationalism keeps it alive.

The 31st is also Halloween, of course. While not a Peruvian fiesta per se, this international holiday, with its marketing power of international style and shopping, claims and ever-larger segment of Peru. Today the Day of Canción Criolla lives in official space while Halloween occupies much commercial and private footage.

On Halloween, the city of Cuzco becomes very congested with people. You would think that Halloween rules unfettered, outside of schools perhaps. But one of the most popular costumes seen in Cuzco’s main square, its Plaza de Armas, is the festive costume of the Negroide, the Afro-Peruvian celebrated in Creole Music. In this way, Halloween draws deeply on the relationship among Indians, Cholos, Whites, and Blacks, as well as Cuzco and the Coast, to claim a vivid place in the Halloween parade of types.

Cajón and Guitar in Lima (Photo: Walter Coraza. M)
Cajón and Guitar in Lima (Photo: Walter Coraza. M)

In Cuzco’s garden restaurants (quintas), its clubs where folklore is performed (peñas), and its restaurants you will find Creole Music this night. As a result, you will see ensembles of guitars with big bodies and the wooden box drum called the Creole cajón making beautiful music that belong to our national songsters, such as Arturo Zambo Cavero, Eva Ayllón, Bartola, etc. Tourists and locals dance with joy to the sound of these songs each with their own rhythm and steps.

Furthermore, from early in the morning, local radio stations in Cuzco play songs from our wealth of Creole Song. Newscasters and commentators speak of how the Day of Creole Song is being celebrated and on its importance. We listen to what is called “our music”.

Creole Music continues to be very important in the life of Peruvians. It brings tradition from olden days, before we were born, along with the nostalgia of love, competition, and loss as well as success. We continue, despite pressure, to continue to celebrate this day and new generations of Peruvians learn to love the music that builds and sustains our nation.

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