Commentary

The Song “El Condor Pasa” Celebrates 100 Years Today

The Condor Flies in San Sebastian Cuzco

One hundred years ago today, the well-known song “El Condor Pasa” was first played in public, according to an article in the prestigious El Comercio newspaper of Lima. This song which is performed daily in almost every tourist restaurant in Cusco that provides shows, as well as in thousands of versions around the world and which is claimed by the other Andean countries as part of their folklore, was composed by Daniel Almía Robles as part of a larger theatrical presentation.

Originally performed by a classical ensemble made up of a cello, bass, flute, trombone, trumpet, clarinet, and percussion, the melody has become a standard of the repertoire for quena, the indigenous notched flute of the Andes.

Written in a traditional pentatonic scale, such as was used by the Incas, the theatrical piece which fit the genre of zarzuela, a kind of Spanish operetta, narrated the abuses of Europeans on the indigenous people when they arrived in America. The theme of the condor which appears at the end of the piece, was meant to portray freedom. The play was written by Julio Baudoin.

Playing the Condor Pasa
Playing the Condor Pasa

 

Without doubt the piece broke the boundaries of Peru and Latin America when Simon and Garfunkle gave it words and released it on one of their albums as “If I could” in 1970.

Hundreds if not thousands of touring musicians from the Andean countries have taken the song to street corners around the world in the form of an ensemble of Andean musicians, made up of guitar, charango, quena, and pan pipe that became standard in La Paz, Bolivia and has since become international.

In November, PromPeru released a video commemorating the 100th year anniversary of the song entitled “The Condor Pasa, 100 Years of Magic”. Earlier, in 20014 the Peruvian government declared the song “Cultural Heritage of the Nation”.

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