Arts & Entertainment

Peru guitar maestro’s lifelong quest for the sound of the Andes

By Paula Bayarte

Lima, May 3 (EFE).- The din of Lima traffic that wafts in through the half-opened window seems to fade when Manuelcha Prado picks up his guitar and strums a melancholy tune by way of explaining his relationship with the instrument that has captivated him for half a century.

“The Andes have the eternal sound of the stars, the immense sound of the constellation of the Southern Cross,” he says when Efe asks him to define the sonic quality of the mountain range that bestrides South America.

Prado, 64, is an iconic musician who has dedicated his adult life to preserving and popularizing the legacy of Peru’s forgotten people.

“During my career I have sought to be connected to the land, to the natural sounds, to the oldest sounds. Also to the fusion of Quechua and Spanish,” he recounts before reciting a poem embodying that fusion, “Marqay Hunta rosas.”

The mixture of Spanish and Peru’s most widely spoken indigenous language is particular to Prado’s native south-central region of Ayacucho.

“Musicality is always linked to the people and to the land. That is what fills me and that it what I always convey in my recitals,” he says.

Andean music is warm and nostalgic, but what sets it apart from other genres, according to Prado, is that it always has something to say.

“Many times it’s a rebellious message,” he says in his studio in the heart of the capital. “Messages against injustices, inequality, against the historical vacuums that still exist in our country.”

That sentiment will be in evidence Thursday when Prado and other giants of Peruvian music will take the stage at the Gran Teatro Nacional for a concert in tribute to the nation’s mothers.

Introduced to Peru by the Spanish in the 16th century, the guitar quickly won adherents among the musicians of the Inca cities taken over by the conquistadors.

Over time, they added guitar to indigenous instruments such as the flutes that give Andean music its distinctive sound, a development that went hand-in-hand with the melding of Spanish rhythms and modes with traditional ones.

“With a guitar one can converse in the most subtle way possible. All of the sounds of the Earth sleep in the guitar,” Prado says. “We Andean musicians always try to touch the deep sound, we always seek the divine echo.” EFE pb/dr

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