Life & Leisure

Ecuador’s traditional music comes to the catwalk

By Susana Madera

Quito, Mar 9 (EFE).- The nostalgic melodies of the “pasillo,” Ecuador’s traditional musical genre that was recently named an intangible cultural heritage of humanity, are being featured in the third edition of the Qhapacñan fashion show after inspiring a group of young designers.

Love, melancholy, sadness, disappointment and loss of a loved one are the themes that pervade the music, which has inspired the students at the Yavirac Tourism and Heritage Technology Institute to bring 70 outfits crafted with an assortment of national fabrics, precious stones and embroidery.

Moving from a visual inspiration to another based on the intangible was the challenge for the 280 students who participated in the project, which has culminated in a fashion show that will be held on Thursday via the Yavirac Institute’s social network accounts.

After a complicated research effort, the students managed “to capture in the garments the idea of the lyrics of the pasillos,” Luis Pillajo, the project’s mentor, told EFE.

The pasillo “is a symbol of Ecuadorian identity, but day by day it’s being marginalized by the new generations, and already the historical and musical value of it are no longer known,” the organizers said.

Thus, to prepare the show they investigated the origins of the pasillo and its identity, seeking new viewpoints within the new generations.

“Before, for me they were songs for people who were sad” but now “they’re feelings, emotions. Now I understand” the pasillo, 21-year-old student Alisson Erazo told EFE, adding that she thinks that deconstructing the pasillo in garment design and bringing it to the catwalks is another way of “encouraging love for the national music.”

It’s a type of music that transcends borders, since in 2021 UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage included the Ecuadorian pasillo, song and poetry on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

“Lips that don’t kiss are dead petals, they’re hymns without notes, they’re stars without light. The breast that doesn’t love is a polar night, a sad sarcophagus where sorrow is at home,” is a loose translation of the lyrics of “Angel de Luz” (Angel of Light), a pasillo that inspired the design of a long and loose-fitting beige dress.

The “drape of the corset represents the delicacy, sophistication and elegance of the woman whom the author describes in his song. The sleeves reveal the wings of this angel. The clear colors and the golds emulate the light that she radiates,” said Erazo, adding that for her the looseness of the garment evokes “the abandonment he felt when she left.”

“I’m like the leaves in the burning summer, like the sad birds who have lost their nests, like the humble stream that runs gently to lose itself in seas of sorrow and forgetfulness” – these are the lyrics of “Hojas secas” (Dry Leaves) that inspired a long, almost skin-tight dress with sleeves superimposed like a cape with wool embroidery that simulates branches and nests.

The lower portion of the garment is embroidered with fine golden thread representing the veins of the dry leaves, Erazo said, adding that her group created the dress with silky fabric in earth colors inspired by “abandonment and sadness.”

The voice of Julio Jaramillo, one of the most important musicians in Ecuador, has not only touched many hearts with his pasillo “Cuando llora mi guitarra” (When my guitar weeps), but also has had an impact on the sensitivities of the fashion students, who designed a dress in pale colors with precious stones in the torso area like the strings of a guitar surrounded with flowers to reflect romance.

After the in-person 2018 and 2019 shows held at the Yavirac Institute, this year’s event will be virtual due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

And city authorities are also undertaking innovative activities to spur tourism in Quito’s colonial old town, which is where the Yavirac Institute is located and which was also declared to be part of the cultural heritage of humanity.

The models have exhibited the garments in the Antiguo Circulo Military building, built in the neoclassical style that prevailed at the beginning of the 20th century, and at the Casa del Sucre, the museum of which gives clues to Quito society between the 18th and 19th centuries.

EFE sm/fgg/laa/bp

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