Afro-Peruvian Beats: El Ritmo Sigue


Having already captured some awesome images during the Festival Internacional del Cajón in May, I was once again welcomed into the home of Rafael Santa Cruz, one of Peru’s renowned cajón players. I had met Rafael in December, only three months after arriving in Peru, and it was great to be able to interview him one more time.

I filmed as Rafael explained the ups and downs of planning and executing an event as large as the Festival Internacional del Cajón, and as he spoke I recalled the lively event that had taken place less than a month prior. My interview with Rafael came to close, and as I turned of my camera I realized this would be the last time I needed to film. Leaving Rafael’s home I felt a sense of excitement and relief. I was FINALLY done filming! Almost as soon as I felt that excitement, I also began to feel apprehensive. All of my filming may have been done, but I still needed to sit down, watch countless hours of film, and somehow narrow down all of that footage into an hour-long (maybe hour and a half long) documentary.

Before letting myself get too overwhelmed by the intricacies of documentary filmmaking, I took some time to enjoy my last month in Peru. Having finished my filming, I could now take a step back from everything and reflect.

I’ve written about the Zevallos family throughout my time in Peru, and I was fortunate enough to meet up with the family one last time before my departure. During my stay in Peru the whole family (pictured below) welcomed me and shared their devotion to Afro-Peruvian music. With them I was able to witness, and visually capture, the importance of music in their family. My camera rolled as they hosted several encuentro familiares, and it captured how Afro-Peruvian rhythms not only brought them together, it also incorporated their neighborhood in Villa el Salvador. Their dedication to keeping this musical tradition alive from generation to generation was self-evident. Finding such dedication to Afro-Peruvian music within families is rare in Lima, and every time I visited the Zevallos family I couldn’t help but remember the towns of Zaña and Yapatera in northern Peru.

While the Zevallos family may have demonstrated the social impact of Afro-Peruvian music in Lima, the people I met in Zaña and Yapatera did the same for northern Peru. Luck was on my side when I first met Sonia Arteaga and Lucho Rocca, the two founders of the Museo Afro Peruano in Zaña, and it was through interviews and filmings with them that I was able to see how engrained Afro-Peruvian music could be in the lives of the small town’s inhabitants. If anything, one of the most important things I learned in Zaña was that Afro-Peruvian music worked, first and foremost, as a uniting force. No matter their race or ethnicity, the inhabitants of Zaña engaged in learning and keeping alive a musical tradition that began many, many years before the town’s tiniest checo players were even born. The same was true of Yapatera, another small town I visited in Northern Peru, and although Yapatera was not as committed to Afro-Peruvian music, the town used other artistic mediums to keep their Afro-Peruvian heritage alive.

I had come to Peru ten months prior and I had accomplished all of the filmings and seen all of the musical artists I set out to see, except one: Novalima. With only two weeks to go before my flight back to the U.S., I was surprised to read that Novalima would be kicking off its summer tour in Lima! Novalima fuses traditional Afro-Peruvian sounds with electronic music, and it’s one example of a band that manages to fuse Afro-Peruvian music with another genre successfully. Novalima did not disappoint, and having had the opportunity to see them I was finally ready to head home. Above you can see a picture of Novalima in action.

Of course, before leaving, I had to enjoy the wonders of Peruvian cuisine one last time. I would miss all of the delicious food Peru had to offer, so I made sure to eat as much of it as possible before I left. Even as I boarded the plane I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the beef heart anticuchos (pictured above) and ceviche (pictured below) my stomach would miss.

Most importantly, I would miss my new Peruvian family. With them I not only learned about Peruvian culture, I was also introduced to Peru’s Japanese community. In short, they made Lima home. Finally, although I was leaving Peru I knew that my work was still not done, and although this frightened me a little, at the same time I was happy to have had the opportunity to begin and continue this project.

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