MarKamusic  Historical Perspective


The earliest expressions of musical culture on the South American continent were recreations of the natural sounds found in the aboriginal environment.  Resourcefulness was the key and the original inhabitants recreated the only music known to them, the sounds of their native surroundings. They mimicked the sounds of wind, rain, falling water, rushing water, lightening, thunder, heart beat, snakes, insects and a multitude of birds with the simplest of artifacts and found objects including reeds, seeds, dried out gourds, shells, pebbles, stones, animal and human bones, logs, and animal skin. 

Given the absence of handwriting, music and song later emerged as the principal vehicle for passing on history, traditions, culture and values from one generation to the next.  For instance, the oral medium during Inca times was comprised of poetry, theater, oral tradition and most importantly music.  The Amautas or wise men had to recite short stories generation after generation to instruct the children as well as to remind elders about their traditions. Important events were turned into verse by the poets and Haravecs (Inventors) in order to be sung at festivals or after victory. In Latin America, well before the European invasion, as civilizations evolved, matured and fell, so did their music, particularly in South America, where hundreds of styles of music and instruments had already developed during pre-Columbian times.  

Successive migrations, some cruel and devastating, some unwilling, some welcome, each left their own unique, indelible stamp on the music and cultural fiber of South America.  Besides, the historic process of struggle and transformation during the ensuing centuries also left its unmistakable trace on the content and context of the music.  The result is that South American music is today a complex blend of native-indigenous, Euro-Iberian, West African—and most recently—North American influences. These voices mix with the lyrics, themes, sentiments and rhythms of fading indigenous cultures.  Today, many South American tribal groups are extinct, and much of the aboriginal music, like parts of the rain forest, has disappeared.  In place of the silenced traditional musical expressions are new ones, themselves art forms, some joyful, some sad, but always expressive.


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