Peruvian beats and culture were felt through the computer screen last Thursday. On March 18, the Center for Black Student Success (CBSS) hosted a rhythm-filled question and answer session with performing artist Pedro Rosales of Proyecto Landó. Facilitated by the faculty director of CBSS Umi Vaughan, the event began with a land acknowledgement. This event was part of the Katherine Dunham African Diaspora Art series, which aims to explore Dunham’s legacy as a dancer, as well as the various intellectual contributions she’s made in the world of music.
Rosales is a self-described “son of Peru.” Vaughaun started off the question portion of the event by describing the historical context of how Africans came to Peru and stated the African peoples brought with them their rich cultural and musical heritage.
Rosales then discussed his transition from dancer to musician. He was moved by the rhythms of marinera and bombo types of dance and music. He felt the rhythm deep within and fell in love with percussion. Soon after, he began to take cajón classes.
A cajón is a percussion instrument typical to Peruvian music that is shaped like a box. Rosales also discussed how much pride he takes in his Peruvian heritage.
Vaughan informed viewers of the term criolla, which refers to Peruvian culture. He said there are many influences in Peruvian culture, which includes a “strong Andean presence.”
Vaughan asked Rosales about the instruments that make up a Peruvian ensemble. Rosales described the cajón, and stated that this was the most important instrument from the coast of Peru. There’s also the cajita, which is a minor percussion instrument that evolved from the colonial era. Rosales also described the quijada, which is an idiophone percussion instrument made from the bottom jaw of a donkey or horse, and is used to add an element of rattling to the music. Rosales mentioned that the cajita and quijada are always together, evidenced by colonial-era paintings that feature both instruments. Included in the event were several videos of Rosales and Pareda playing instruments.
Rosales described the historical context of Peruvian instruments. The guitar is also an important instrument, and Peruvian guitar is influenced by African and Andean elements of rhythm and sound.
Vicente Vasquez is an influential Peruvian guitarist. Rosales mentioned that Vasquez used his ancestral memory to become a prolific guitarist and is considered to be one of the masters of the marinera. Rosales also discussed zamacueca, which is a rich dance that originated in Peru. There is a lot of interpretation of African rhythm in zamacueca. Rosales described Peruvian culture as being “a mix of the mix of the mix,” saying there are many elements borrowed from various cultures that arrived from other countries and regions. CBSS broadcasted a video of Rosales playing a tune used for a zamacueca, which had a rhythm that made one want to get up and dance.
Vaughan asked Rosales about the plight of Black Peruvians. Rosales stressed that there is a constant “struggle of discrimination and stereotyping.” Viewers were informed that Peruvian entertainment allowed for blackface to be used as a comedic trope. However, this problematic practice was forbidden as of five years ago.
Living in the United States, Rosales has noticed his sense of identity was more triggered, and he felt a greater need to share his culture. Rosales stated it’s important to his sense of self to share his heritage and where he comes from. In fact, Rosales felt “privileged to be able to share [his] culture” with other communities.
Vaughan noted that while Rosales is rooted in his Peruvian heritage, he is also very much enmeshed with Bay Area culture. Rosales said Peruivian and Bay Area culture have more similarities than differences and that he is looking for “common ground for us all to come together.”
Viewers were then treated to another sample of a rhythm called Landó. Rosales said all these types of music were “created politically with social justice in mind.” He said Peruvian music is an act of resistance, and also an act of love and togetherness.
Finally, Rosales discussed the festejo. The term refers to a festive form of Afro Peruvian music. This is popular along the coastal communities of Peru and is very animated and high-energy. The festejo is historically significant because it was a celebration of the emancipation of enslaved people. Rosales described it as containing one of the most popular and well-known African rhythms.
Rosales showed immense passion when discussing his connection to Afro Peruvian culture and the rich melodies that accompany instruments like the cajón and quijada. Music and sound are an essential part of his identity. For more information about these tunes, folks can visit proyectolando.com.