miércoles, 6 de diciembre de 2017

The day that Paco de Lucía met Peruvian cajon

There are days and moments in which a series of magical events follow one another to bring us a unique coincidence that can change the course of music history.

What do we mean after this blistering phrase? It means that on the night of March 23,1977, all the circumstances took place for the flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía to get to know the Peruvian cajón (Peruvian box) on a visit to Lima on the occasion of a closing a tour he was making with his band throughout South America.

We have been able to see so much of the Peruvian cajón adapted to flamenco in the infancy of the last generation of Spaniards and we will have heard it in those nights when Tve2 broadcast flamenco programs. So by force of habit we came to believe that the cajón was an instrument native of Spain.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Peruvian cajón is part of the Afro-Peruvian music tradition and its use has been documented in the traditions of this community since the mid-19th century.

As has happened with black slaves all over the world, creativity in celebrating their parties and rescuing the sounds of their native Africa led them to use instruments with whatever they had at hand, such as a little wooden box bitten with a stick, donkey's jaw, or a simple wooden box.

According to the Afro-Peruvian singer and former minister of culture, Susana Baca, Paco de Lucía's first contact with the Peruvian cajón took place at a party organized by the Spanish Embassy in Lima, in which Chabuca Granda, the most international performer of the moment in Peru, was invited as guest of honor.

She was accompanied by the well-known Afro-Peruvian percussionist Caitro Soto, who brought with him a drawer made by himself.

It wasn't until the evening when Susana Baca joined the celebration that merged flamenco with Afro-Peruvian music into one. In that house in the bohemian district of Barranco was sung, danced and mixed rhythms such as landó, festejo, alegrías and bulerías. It is then that the Brazilian percussionist who accompanied Paco de Lucía, Rubem Dantas, gets the cajón and includes it in the party. It is the origin of the flamenco cajón.

Paco de Lucia cajon peruano, peruvian cajon, peruvian box, origin of the flamenco box

According to Paco de Lucía himself, years later, both he and Dantas realized that the cajón was the ideal percussion of flamenco "because the palmas (claps) do not have the consistency (...) and has the high-pitched sound of a bailaor's heel and the bass of a plant".

That Peruvian cajón for which the guitarist paid 12,000 pesetas (US$ 12 aprox at current price, something excessive for that period), began to be present in all the artist's shows and, since then, ran through the musical atmosphere of the time in Spain as a trail of gunpowder. Paco de Lucía proudly stated that six months after arriving in Madrid, in all the flamenco houses in Spain there was a cajón.

The variations that have allowed the internationalisation of the flamenco cajón are the use of strings in its interior -which give it greater vibration- and the way in which the acoustic cover is fixed to the structure.

Paco de Lucia cajon peruano, peruvian cajon, peruvian box, origin of the flamenco box

In Peru the cajón is recognized as a National Cultural Heritage and for Peruvians it is a sign of pride that flamenco has adapted its rhythms. Flamenco owes a lot to the cajón, and maestro Paco, from wherever he is, keeps tapping to the rhythm he launched that many years ago sounded clear and clear as a Spanish bulería.

Ricardo Armestar, Peru Travels Blog
December 2017

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