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Afro-Peruvian Musical Heritage in Lima and in London

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(1) Afro-Peruvian Musical Heritage in the Black Pacific and in London


Cast: Leguia, British-Peruvian dog-racing, Bustamante y Rivero, Arguedas, Valcarcel, Vasquez, Jose Durand, Manos Negras, Earls Court, Peter Wade - amongst others.


(Note: accents are not printed in this edition. This article has been prompted by several recent events in the London area: Peter Wade’s talk at Canning House on Columbian coastal music; the Manos Negras concerts as part of the promotion of Peru within the Destinations tourism exhibition at Earls Court; and the overall Cimarron celebration of the African cultural legacy in Latin America 11th to 23rd Feruary 2008)


When the Lima dog track (see Minka article “When Lima went to the dogs” - below) closed in 1945 – partly because some of its customary punters had returned to the UK to fight in the war – its staff became unemployed. Fortuitously so in one case, at least with regard to the history of Peruvian music, because one of those leaving Kennel Park Dog Track on its final day was Porfirio Vasquez who had been an attendant there since the 1930’s or perhaps earlier.


Fast-forward to the Earls Court Destinations exhibition on Saturday 2nd February, 2008 and listen to Manos Negras perform “Le Dije a Papa”.(Or if you missed it, tune into YouTube edition – the quality of sound reproduction will be affected by your broadband link. See Manos Negras in the Journal of Peruvian Studies - http://academia.wikia.com/wiki/Manos_Negras. Manos Negras comprises Kieffer Santander - Cajon and Band Leader; Dora de La Cruz - Lead Vocal; Jimmy le Messurier – Percussion; Marco Valencia - Guitar and Tres Cubano; Cameron McBride – Bass; Flavia Chevez - le Messurier - Dancer, Chorus; Pablo Cesar Quintana de la Cruz - Dancer, Chorus.)


Look up the lyrics and you will read


Parapa parapa, parapa parapa, parapa parapapapa

Este ritmo de negros, este ritmo sabroso, este ritmo festejo aqui. (bis 4)

Yo no habia nacido cuando este llego,

lo hizo un negro que lo conozco yo

paraparpa parapapa parapapa pararapa

Lo hizo Porfirio Vasquez ese gran señor

lo hizo con mucho arte

y ahora lo canto yo, lo canto yo...


So how did P. Vasquez become immortalised in this song which is now one of the signature tunes of Manos Negras? Is this the same Porfirio Vasquez? And what was his role amongst the legendary founders of the “New Peru”?


Vasquez was born 4 November 1902 in the celebrated village of Aucallama in Chancay and was described by Nicomededes Santa Cruz as one of the most versatile instrumentalists, composers, dancers, decimistas, storytellers and singers of his generation. A jack of all trades and master of most of them. He lived till 1971 and . . .


. . fue tan completo que podía improvisar una marinera de término, cantarla cajoneando o pulsando la guitarra, o bien bailarla fina, salerosa o pícaramente. Zapateador de contrapunto con vastísimo repertorio de pasadas; bailarín del ya extinto agüenieve; guitarrista folklórico que legó a la actual generación toques casi perdidos, como el “socabón”, “agüenieve”, “diablinquillo”, “alcatraz” y “zapateo en menor”, así como afinaciones o temples en la guitarra (“punto de maulio”) para diferentes golpes de jarana derivados de la “mozamala” y “zamacueca”. Buen decimista e inagotable narrador de cuentos, leyendas y todo tipo de tradiciones. Cuando en 1945 fue clausurado el “Kennel Park”, don Porfi se quedó sin trabajo. En esa época lo conocimos e intimamos como padre e hijo…'(nicomedessantacruz.com website)


In 1945 there was a change of Government in Peru and for a brief moment, until ended by a military coup, a revalorisacion of Peruvian culture. Luis Bustamante y Rivero shared power with Haya de la Torre. <Note: Both became noted constitutionalists (Bustamante at the Hague and Haya President of the Constituent Assembly 1978/79). The respected intellectual Valcarcel was appointed Minister of Education by Bustamante and Jose Maria Arguedas was brought in as advisor on music and culture. In Arequipa Alfredo Roberts became mayor. Bustamantista, liberal-oligarchic, constitutionalist (democratic) government in alliance (and in friction with) the then left pan-American aprista, Haya was short-lived.> Those heady, optimistic days of Peru’s second renaissance somehow didn’t return until the whole-agenda shift of the next century. The young man who brought in Porfirio Vasquez as consultant was Jose Durand. They set upon the task of bringing Afro-Peruvian music out of the closets of empoversished coastal villages and congested callejones of Lima and also out of the music salons of a few rich criollo families who privately had kept the flame flickering: Afro-Peruvian music and dance had almost died out – some maintained - in the previous decades.


An excellent source on this period is Heidi Carolyn Feldman. Black Rhythms of Peru: Reviving African Musical Heritage in the Black Pacific. The author, from the University of San Diego, California, devotes a chapter to the role of JoseDurand and links through to “criollo nostalgia” as a factor influencing the resurgence of Afro-Peruvian music. Durand formed a theatre company seeking out


“ members of the few black families that had preserved music and dance traditions in the rural provinces of the northern and southern coasts, some of whom had moved to Lima during or prior to the waves of migration of the twentieth century. The Pancho Fierro Company was named after the Peruvain mulato artist whose whimsical and vibrant watercolour illustrations are one of the few sources on Black musicians and their instruments in nineteenth century Peru. Durand’s company breather new life into Pancho Fierro’s canvasses by reenacting the musical traditions of the past.” (Feldman p.27)


So in the late 1950s to 1970s, an Afro-Peruvian revival brought the “forgotten music and dances of Peru's African musical heritage to Lima's theatrical stages". Feldman reveals how Afro-Peruvian artists "remapped blackness from the perspective of the Black Pacific" and the Black Pacific is described as "a marginalized group of African diasporic communities along Latin America's Pacific coast.”


For further text and references please turn to:



(2) When Lima went to the dogs.

Continuing the series “Peru and Britain: history in common”


When you next go to Lima, stay at the Clifford hotel, situated in a beautiful regentrified parque – the previous Kennel Park race track, which once sat under the shadow of the (British) football club stadium. Both the stadium (now the rebuilt 1952 National Stadium) and the dog track (closed) are testimony to the influence of British working-class culture in Lima in the years before the Second World War. Why working-class? When President Leguia encouraged the modelling of the outward expansion of Lima along “anglo-saxon” lines – most notably along the axis of Avenida Leguia (now Arequipa) the British in Lima were able to indulge their particular vice: the founding of Sports Clubs and Schools. But this too had to be subject to their other vice: the worship of class. So football and the dogs were to be on the East side of Arequipa and polo, the hipodromo (horse-racing), lawn tennis and a private flying club to the West. In this way even the West End – East End divisions of old London was imposed on this particular part of Lima, lying between the old city walls and the location of the previous British Embassy. Houses in the alameda Leguia (Avenida Arequipa) were builton the British / American plan of “building surrounded by garden” rather than the old Spanish protective enclosure of an outside wall containing an atrium and a second internal courtyard. Although the dog track closed (1945) and the Polo, Hipodromo and airstrip have long since moved, the Lawn Tennis remains but without much evidence of lawn, though there is a swimming pool overlooked by the elegant yet decayed neo-colonial building of the Club Arequipa.The Campo de Marte parade ground now occupies the site of the horse-racing track. Other clubs with which the Brits in Lima were associated are the Country Club (visit the Bar Ingles, San Isidro) , the Cricket (now in Santa Martha) and the Phoenix. With this genius for founding clubs a century ago in far-flung parts of the world, how can we explain the apparent absence today of social facilities for youngsters whose only recourse, according to the popular press, is to binge-drinking along the highstreets of almost every UK town or city?


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