Victoria Santa Cruz

I was listening to last week’s Pelanga En La Sala, where we shared a few tracks that we picked up at Oakland’s record swap in November, and there is one more track I’d really like to share.

Trying to stay within a budget, you have to limit yourself to just a few pricier records, and then go take some risks off of the dollar bins. During the podcast we gave the best-one-dollar-record award to Jacobo, for a cosmic trip of a track: “Sagitario” by Chico Che y La Crisis. Very well deserved, no doubt, but can I show you my contender?

I’ve long been a fan of Afro-Peruvian music, and I didn’t think twice when I saw a compilation of marineras, festejos, landós, and zamacuecas in Adam‘s bargain bin. The record featured some of the usual suspects, but also several musicians I never heard of — just what I look for in a $1 gamble. It turned out to be a great record all around, and the last track, a zamacueca by the incredible Victoria Santa Cruz, was the surprise treat for me.

NEGATIVO DIGITALIZADO EL 07 DE DICIEMBRE 2006

(foto: El Comercio)

Victoria Santa Cruz has been called the mother of Afro-Peruvian culture; I knew her as a dancer / scholar / performer / folklorista / badass. But I didn’t know she recorded some albums too, and there’s a track of hers on this compilation. And I don’t know what it is, but this song just fucking kills me!

Every now and then I’ll find what I think are the best five seconds of music in history (the Miles Davis Quintet handing “‘Round Midnight” to Coltrane for his solo, the entrance to “Quitate De Mi Escalera” by Grupo Socavón, Jorge Millet’s filthy piano solo on Orquesta Mundo’s “Mamacita”, Andrés Landero’s bassist trying to sound like a turkey on “La Pava Congona”…). DJ China Tu Madre will tell you that I exaggerate all the time, but I don’t. At least not at those times. And right now, that’s how I feel about the moment when Victoria Santa Cruz gathers everyone together to close this track.

 

This song is the soundtrack to a straight-up dance battle, and our only regret should be not being able to watch it. Instead, I’ll leave you with this:

 

 

Victoria Santa Cruz passed away in August, at age 91. Que descanse en paz. If you’re in the Bay Area, you may be interested in a tribute that the Mission Cultural Center will host next Monday:

http://www.missionculturalcenter.org/events.html#DeVueltaAlCallejon

Enjoy,

papicultor

Copa América 2011

28483737-Nino con Pelota

I come from that generation of peruanos who’s never seen Peru win anything in fútbol: we last made the World Cup in 1982, when I was five, and last won a Copa América in 1975, a couple of years before I was born. But there’s always hope. South America’s soccer championship starts tomorrow, and though we have a tough group (Chile, Mexico, Uruguay) right now, as I type this: we’re all tied for first place.

So I’m posting this sublimely patriotic track from Arturo “Zambo” Cavero, “Y se llama Perú”, to inspire fans and players alike to dream big, or at least lose with dignity. My guess is Papicultor is as optimistic about Colombia’s chances, as I am about Peru’s; and that Posoule is smug and confident after Chicharito et al won the Gold Cup in impressive fashion.

May the best team win.

abrazos,

tunda

Y Se Llama Perú by Arturo Cavero

“Canto a Perú”, Conj. Palmas y Cañas de Cuba

27367482-P1040061

A touch of nationalism now and then isn’t a bad thing, as long as it isn’t dogmatic. It’s even better when it’s shared musically. What I like about this record is the very notion behind it: a Cuban group performing in honor of Peru. That’s pan-Latin Americanism I can get behind…

Canto A Perú by Conjunto Palmas Y Cañas De Cuba

Canto a Perú

– tunda

“El Coquero”, Los Beta 5

25186131-P1070383_2

Los Beta 5, one of Peru’s great cumbia bands, featuring the Canevallo Pardo brothers–what a talented family. Nelson (lead guitar), Fernando (guitar/bass), Reynaldo (timbales), Juan (bongos) + Pancho Lema (quinta). Here’s my favorite of this comp I got in Lima last month: ‘El Coquero”. Enjoy.

El Coquero by Los Beta 5

El Coquero

– tunda

 

 

Peruanos en Alabama

Image001

Peruanos en Alabama, circa 1993

Ever since I left the South—as I’ve wandered from New York, across the Midwest, to the Southwest, eventually landing in Califas (interspersed with long stints in Lima)—no matter where I go, I’ve always been confronted by incredulous looks when I tell folks where I spent my childhood: Alabama!? That’s right. Perhaps it doesn’t seem that random to me because we weren’t the only Peruvian family around. In the golden age of the 1980s, peruanos in Birmingham could field two full soccer teams (see photo above) and collectively cook up an enormous buffet table every July 28th, for Independence Day parties. There were lots of us, or at least that’s how I remember it.

(Of course, now, there are many, many more Peruanos and all sorts of Latinos around Bama… Don’t believe me? Check this out.)

Still, part of me has always wondered too. Why there? How? Recently, on a trip back, I had the chance to chat with my uncle Hubert and my aunt Mercedes. They were raised in Arequipa, and Hubert and my father were childhood friends. Like my old man, Hubert also studied medicine at the local university. When my father transferred to Lima, they lost touch, and found one another, quite by accident, a decade later in Alabama. When I asked Hubert and Mercedes how this came about, my uncle began with an observation about the university in those days: the old, fusty, boring teachers had all studied in Europe, whereas the good, young, dynamic teachers had studied in the US. Naturally, Hubert began thinking he should come north. Like any good student, he went to the library, where the university kept a green reference book containing the addresses of American universities and a listing of scholarship possibilities in the US open to Peruvians, alphabetized by state.

He turned to the first page: Alabama. And that was it. The whole story.

At that point in the interview, my aunt started laughing: if only he’d turned a few more pages, she said, we could have moved to California!

With the International Day of the Migrant coming up this Saturday, I thought I’d share this little story with the extended Pelanga fam. Here’s an audio clip from the interview:

Interview with Tio Herbet

And here’s “El Jet”, a song from Los Compadres del Ande that makes me think of my parents’ generation, the ones that left Peru for all those random places that beckoned. It goes out with much love to my folks, to Hubert and Mercedes, and all the peruanos in Alabama.
El Jet – Los Compadres Del Ande

El Jet

– tunda