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Music, Heritage & Remembering

August 18, 2017

Los Shapis, in the beginning . . .

This post really only states the obvious . . . but tells some of my story.  Many songs or types of music evoke very strong memories of my personal history.

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind

conjures up 1966, my Freshman year at Purcell High School, Cincinnati, Ohio when my homeroom teacher, Marianist Brother Glassmeyer, mixed with the smell of the formaldehyde in that homeroom/Biology lab, proclaimed with great certainty that the line was code for smoking dope.

  • Or hearing Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No.1 puts me back in the underground tunnels of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota, a setting for a scene in the novella (some 90 odd double-spaced pages) I wrote in 1967, gave to another Marianist Brother (unnamed here, cause he still teaches there) for review, who then lost the manuscript.  I tried to reconstruct the story but could never get it down again.
  • Whenever I hear Dylan sing Blue Moon from his Self-Portrait album, I think of my father talking about the old am/fm/shortwave radio in our house and the smell of those tubes heating up when I turned it on.  He was selling the radio away to someone because he said we only listened to “once in a Blue Moon.”  But I had hooked up wires to the antenna and ran it through our kitchen window in hopes of picking up an exotic tongue from far away.

And the list goes on and on and on . . . and the songs I add to my Spotify playlists with creative names like “Good One” or “New One” or “Thanksgiving” or “Sunday Morning” give me the grist to tell story after story of my history.

I fell in love with Huayno music a few years ago while working in the Highlands of Peru a couple of hours from Huaraz.  One compilation available on Spotify of Cholos Andinos contains the well-known song Adiós Pueblo de Ayacucho.  Although very upbeat, the song is one of lament, loss, and new beginnings.  From the opening notes, the song immediately transports me back to the July of 2015 when my colleague, Elizabeth Cruzado Carranza and I spent what I can best describe as a rather idyllic and carefree month of doing data analysis by day and hanging with friends and Godchildren in the evenings and on weekends in the 400 person village of Hualcayán some 10,000 feet above the Mississippi Delta where I now live.

Today Eli gave me a t-shirt of the band Los Shapis, one of Peru’s premier Chicha bands of the 1980s.  I originally came across them from a Spotify suggested link, and was hooked.  The El Aguajal video is vintage 1980s in dress and their “expressive” choreography.  Although I find the tunes very playful, they are filled with stories of loss and struggle of working class migrants to the outskirts of Lima in the 80s and the discrimination they endured.  Two of the founding members continue to tour today.  Over the years, Los Shapis members have starred in movies and at one point even a loosely biographical soap opera.  I had hoped to have a Los Shapis dance contest during our field season this past summer on the North Coast of Peru, but time got too short.  But when I hear the distinctive sound or images of Los Shapis I immediately escape to the congested streets of Lima in which I have roamed with such enjoyment over the past few years.

So, I am seeing a pattern and activity emerge here . . . create a couple hour list of favorite songs . . . play the tracks and do some stream of consciousness writing and watch the personal history emerge.  Sounds like a fun way to spend some afternoons in my newly retired existence!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 19, 2017 3:05 pm

    i love it! nicely done 🙂

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