Angela's Andean Adventures.
Peru and Bolivia 2001 - Part 7.
Live Music in La Paz.
La Paz from El Alto
I enjoyed the whole morning brilliantly with Adrian. When he arrived at the appartment he brought seven CDs with him and gave me one as a birthday present (making two Kallawaya ones he had given as gifts), and I would be buying the other six. We then went on a series of buses and during the journey I told Adrian that I had spent over a year looking for his Kallawaya Fiesta CD and that he could sell a lot of music in the UK if there was an outlet there, and I said I would help in any way I could. So as a result I would be taking a dozen of his CDs back with me to try to sell them for him. I enjoyed the bus ride up to El Alto and took a few photos from the bus. The views there were stunning and different from Peru because all the mountains were capped in snow, whereas in Peru they were not. When we finally reached El Alto, he remembered there was a campesino market, a really big one, and asked me if I wanted to go there. I jumped at the chance, as it is just those kinds of places that interest me most, far removed from tourist attractions. And walking through the market was fantastic, really interesting. We came across a band playing religious music, stopped to listen for a while and when a cassette was produced I was the first one to buy
it! The view from there was fantastic too and I took a few photos and one Bolivian man asked me to take a photo with him in it and when I agreed, he asked if his friend could be in it too and I waited until they posed for me and took the picture. He was so delighted even though he would never see
it! I bought a knitted cardigan that was obviously secondhand but so pretty I didn't care and I also bought one of those big textile shawls in which women either carry their babies on their backs or fill with things to sell which are carried on their backs.
We walked all the way to the other side, which was a long way. There were rail tracks to walk on as the mines used to use these tracks, but it was very muddy and puddles everywhere, as it had rained heavily in the night (and snowed as well, higher up). We passed several people cooking and selling food and it smelled fantastic, but when I suggested to Adrian we eat there he said it was not a good idea as it could not be guaranteed, but when we got to the other side there was a couple of cafes and we went in and enjoyed a lamb dish with rice and potatoes and papa seca, and a bowl of soup which contained meat and vegetables. It was really delicious. Afterwards we took a bus back a while and got off and he put me onto another bus to the centre, asking the driver to put me off at the post office, and he took a different bus to go to his guitar workshop. I would not have minded seeing that as well, but I thought there would be other chances other days. I was so grateful that he devoted so much to his day on me. He promised to phone me later on. I normally didnt see him in the evenings, so decided to send Jorge an email and perhaps even phone him and see if he would like to meet that night. I had received an email from him only that day and he still wanted to meet and show me around. I thought that maybe with him I could see a bit of La Paz at night.
I had noticed on the bus coming down the hill towards the post office that Kalamarka were playing that night in concert and decided to mention it to Adrian when he phoned later if it proved impossible to get hold of Jorge. When I had read in my friend Jacco's email his suggestion to visit one of the peñas I had no idea then that I would be going to one that very night! I had sent an email to Jorge saying I would phone him when I got back to the appartment. As per the day before I was in the internet cafe several hours and forgot the time I was so busy catching up so as soon as I got outside I got a taxi straightaway and was back in the appartment within 20 minutes and doubled the fare so that the driver would wait until I got inside the gate. Once inside - this time I found the house
easily! - I phoned Jorge on his cellular phone and he answered and when I told him where I was staying - he said he was working not far away and would take a break and come straightaway to meet me and we arranged to meet at Plaza Adela Zamudio at 7 pm.
This gave me about 15 minutes to get ready and soon enough I was outside, checking the street both ways before unlocking the gate and locking it again after me. In the plaza I had to wait a few minutes as the traffic was really bad but when he arrived it was great to meet him at last and we sat on one of the seats in the middle of the plaza to chat for about 20 minutes - I was very impressed with his excellent English - and during the course of conversation I told him about the street banner I had seen that afternoon, announcing the Kalamarka concert that evening, and he said that he was working and could not go with me but would take me there and come back for me afterwards if I didn't mind being at the concert on my own. I was really delighted at this kind offer, and really excited once I knew I would definitely be seeing Kalamarka live, and I dashed back to get my camera and some more money while Jorge flagged a taxi down for us. Once at Peña
Huari, he got me settled inside at a nice table right by the stage to the side (all the ones at the front were already reserved) and checked he would be able to get in to fetch me when he came there after work (he was recording with some ladies not far from there). On the table next to mine was a party of French people, who were obviously there for a meal at the peña as part of their tour that day, and Jorge said I could be moved onto that table after they finished if I wished and I agreed.
Before actually going in, Jorge had checked what time it would finish and when they said 2 in the morning I could see that that was rather late for him and quickly assured him that I was grateful to be there at all and that I would readily leave after the first half of the concert if he wished. I was seated by 7 pm with Kalamarka due to play at 9.30 and I decided to eat there as well as there had been no time between getting home and phoning Jorge. Although it was quite expensive, I ordered a bottle of wine to last me the evening, my favourite chicken soup (which is usually nearly the same as Sopa de Gallina) and having already tried alpaca, decided to go for one of the llama specialities on the menu and chose a llama peppered steak. All this was really excellent, although I did feel guilty eating the llama
They are so cute! Although two and half hours to wait for Kalamarka, there was a lovely show of lots of different acts before them - a duo playing when I arrived, then dancers, then another band of 4, then more dancers, then another group (all playing lovely Andean music and even the dancing was to great Andean music) and I was enjoying myself beyond belief. Eventually the party of french people went on their way (I heard their guide saying that if they liked to pay ten dollars they could stay and see one of Bolivias best bands and none of them wanted to - if only they realised what they were
missing!). I was sorry the waiter forgot to move me onto that table because a few minutes later it was filled with the wives and families of some of the musicians and it would have been great to have sat with
I could barely believe that two evenings could be so different - wednesday evening so horrible and then thursday evening so fantastic. It just goes to prove why I am usually so optimistic in life, knowing that at a bad time it doesn't take long before things come around and things are good again. And when Kalamarka came on they were absolutely brilliant - you cannot imagine how happy and thrilled I was to be present to see and hear them playing live. There were six of them, the two main ones on zamponas (Rudolpho Choque) and
charango (Hugo Gutturiez), and the other four were helping out as Andean bands often do for each other - the drummer was the son of a member of Los Chaskas. They played for an hour and a half and it was a time of pure heaven for me. Being so close as well - if I had leaned across the table I could almost touch the nearest musician. All through the evening I had been taking photos of the various things, leaving seven shots in the film for Kalamarka. After they finished the first act, they went backstage. I was tempted to follow them back there and ask for an autograph but didn't have enough
I enjoyed listening to more Andean music through loudspeakers for the next 15 minutes while waiting for Jorge to arrive and although feeling sorry that I would miss the second half of the concert I was so happy at having heard their music live for an hour and a half that I wasn't too worried.
Then Jorge arrived and when he approached my table, Rudolpho was delighted to see him, embraced him and sat at our table, so I got to meet him after all. I even got the greeting embrace when Jorge introduced me! During their conversation in Spanish which I was trying to understand, Rudolpho was saying how busy they were with various tours, with Germany and Scotland coming up - which is when I learned they would be doing a concert in Glasgow at the end of August but not London unfortunately. They were touring constantly as they were going back to France soon, which I think is where they are based most of the time. Even that night they had 8 hours travel to get to Cochabamba for their next concert. But Rudolpho said they would be free on either Monday or Tuesday and suggested we all meet for a drink. I was praying it would be Monday because my flight to Cusco was on Tuesday
morning! Rudolpho also said they would be doing the second half of the concert real soon, would only be playing about 40 minutes and he urged Jorge to stay. I was so thrilled and Jorge seemed pleased that Rudolpho wanted him there. I got us both a drink and the second half was even more brilliant than the first and they played a lot longer than the 40 minutes but Jorge did not mind. When they did an encore at the end they played three or four more songs. Their concert finished about twenty to two in the morning but Jorge didnt rush off even then as Rudolpho headed straight back to our table and chatted for another 15 minutes before we left. Afterwards Jorge told me that Rudolpho had said that Rumillajta had always been his inspiration. He was really thrilled at such a nice compliment.
Outside we found a taxi quite easily and I gave the driver enough to pay the fare to the appartment plus get Jorge to wherever he had to go as well. At the house he came to the gate, and once I unlocked it and got inside and he assured himself that I had locked it properly again, only then got back into the taxi and went home. I enjoyed his company so much - he was incredibly interesting to talk to, and he offered all kinds of suggestions of places to visit, and although he would not see me the next day due to work commitments he said he would phone at 5 pm and make definite arrangements for following days to visit some further away places. I think he was quite sorry that I only had four days left before my flight back to Cusco and I was sorry that I didn't get in touch with him a bit sooner once I arrived there. Jorge phoned in the morning that Saturday and arranged to meet me in Plaza Adela Zamudio at 10 am and first of all we went walking in the area so that he could show me some fantastic views over the city. We took some photos and then took a bus to the Valley of the Moon and had a really fantastic time. Just walking there, enjoying the view, the lovely warm weather - the sky was so blue it didn't look real - taking photos - it was
Then we took another bus and went to a zoo there and that was great too. We spent quite a bit of time watching the condors and I enjoyed the llamas as well. They are such cute looking animals - I felt like giving them a big cuddle, but Jorge said to beware as they might spit. Then we took another bus to a place to enjoy some typical Bolivian food - where they had a buffet style menu so that we could select different things. That was excellent and luckily they took Visa so I could treat Jorge to that as a thank you for such a great morning. From there we went back to town and I went to his studio there. That was exciting especially when he played me all the songs that are ready for the forthcoming Rumillajta
CD (and he promised to send me a copy of the CD when it was ready as well). About 4 pm he had to work as some ladies arrived for a recording session but even then he did not leave me on my own - he arranged for Adrians nephew (the one who took Adrians place in the Rumillajta band) to take me to the nearest Lloyd Air Boliviano office to reconfirm my ticket - but when we got there the office was closed! On the way he showed the the Rumillajta instrument shop near San Francisco, and I bought a pretty waistcoat in a shop near there, and when I told him I needed a few things he took me to a market where I was able to buy milk, chicken, bread and more of those fantastic yoghurt drinks.
By this time I just had enough time to get a taxi back to the house as Adrian had arranged to collect me at 5.30. When he arrived he gave me my Kjarkas ticket explaining that the concert had completely sold out a few days previously but that he had managed to get one ticket for a slightly higher price. He took me to where the concert would take place and when we got there the queue was about a mile long going round and round and round so that you could not see where the end of it was! We got in the queue and he left me for five minutes and when he came back told me to go with him as he had managed to persuade a policeman to let me go in right at the front of the queue. I was so amazed and delighted. I was really lucky because the venue was completely circled by police with alsation dogs so that no one could jump the queue. We arranged that he would pick me up outside at midnight. Luckily for me when he came to pick me up he told me I wasnt dressed warmly enough and he told me to put on some warmer clothes (I had not realised it would be an outdoor concert). I had on two sweaters, two cardigans, the new knitted waistcoat, my warm Peruvian coat, a scarf and knitted hat. Once inside I was seated by 6.30pm, with the concert due to start an hour later. The place was already getting full and I got a good seat about a third of the way back central to the stage. I felt so happy and excited with such a fantastic evening in store in such a nice setting. It was just getting dark and the lights were appearing all around and the sense of anticipation was tremendous. It was quite cold as darkness fell and all those extra clothes were only just enough to keep me warm - the hat made a big difference - I could see why so many people wore them.
The concert began at 7.30 with a band from Ecuador - although the screen said Gracias Hermanos Ecuatorianos, I think their name was something like Manana Maniachi. Then to my amazement (as I knew other artistes were performing) the Kjarkas came on next
and wow, what a fantastic band. I enjoyed their playing so much and recognised all the songs and they played for about three quarters of an hour before introducing an artiste from Chile, one of the Parra family, I think her name was Carnelita or something like that. After that Los kjarkas again... They played for about four hours off and on, and Eva Ayllon also joined them for a while. Being part of that crowd sharing the enjoyment of listening to such a brilliant band was a magical experience that I will never forget. At the end they did about 6 encores altogether. Even though it rained at times during the evening it did not spoil peoples enjoyment. The whole crowd joined in with the words to some of the songs, were swaying as one with the music, it was an incredible atmosphere and the best live concert of my whole life. Also here and there fireworks were let off, before and after each artiste.
Once outside afterwards at 11.30 I thought I would have a long wait for Adrian till midnight, so stood by a few policemen where I felt a bit safer (with 10,000 people pouring out the gates) and they were very friendly and nice. But I only had to wait ten minutes and Adrian arrived with his family, including Maria his girlfriend and it was lovely to meet them all. All six of us squeezed into a taxi and they took me home, Adrian ensuring I was safely inside before getting back in the taxi and heading off home. He was so pleased at my reaction to the concert, delighted that I had enjoyed it so much, and I was so grateful to him for making it possible. I don't know how much trouble it took him to get me that ticket.