"Music from the people.."


Educational Offerings 

Since 1999, the ensemble MarKamusic has given many successful workshops, residencies and educational presentations at Pre–K schools, grade schools, middle schools, high schools, senior centers, colleges, universities, museums and other educational institutions and groups. These events are designed to broaden people’s cultural horizons and awareness of Latin American culture, music and history by drawing upon the considerable communication skills of the group’s members. Among our members there are four composers, three instrument-makers, three teachers, two lecturers, and a scholar in the transmission of culture through oral and musical means in aboriginal societies. An extensive educational resource guide, prepared by MarKamusic member Freddy Chapelliquen, is available upon request to schools in advance of an educational presentation. These presentations can be tailored closely to the age, educational level and time requirements of your audience. The workshops can range from half an hour to several hours, days or weeks in length.

The themes of the educational presentations offered are summarized as follows:

Sounds of the Americas

The earliest expressions of musical culture on the Americas 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. The native people mimicked the sounds of wind, rain, falling water, rushing water, thunder, heart beat, snakes, insects and a multitude of birds with the simplest of artifacts and found objects including: reeds, seeds, dried gourds, seashells, conches, pebbles, stones, animal and human bones, logs, and animal skin. Before the European invasion (especially in South America), many styles of music had emerged during the previous centuries as civilizations developed, matured and fell. Successive migrations - some cruel and devastating, some unwilling, and some welcome - each left their own unique, indelible stamp on the music and culture of the Americas.

Sounds of South America

Given the absence of handwriting, music and song emerged as the principal vehicle for passing on history, traditions 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, recited short stories generation after generation to instruct the children as well as to remind elders of their traditions. Important events were turned into verse by the poets and Haravecs (Inventors) in order to be sung at festivals or after war victories. 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. Nowadays, 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 passionate art forms - some joyful, some sad, but always expressive.

Sounds of the Caribbean

The indigenous peoples of the Caribbean Islands were the Carib, Taino, Arawak and Ciboney. They inhabited these islands for hundreds of years before the invasion of the European empires. It was actually the Carib Indians who lent their name to the Islands. Christopher Columbus was the first European to land in the Islands, (a process that led Spain to claim the entire region). The European powers of that time including England, France, Portugal, the Netherlands and Denmark responded by waging war with Spain and each other, eventually claiming Islands of their own. As a result, the native aboriginal peoples were nearly annihilated, and their way of life almost rendered extinct.  The imperial powers instituted slavery on the islands, causing the native cultures to slowly be replaced by those carried over from Africa who were already colonized by the Europeans. Out of this mixing of cultures, many new cultures were born and in time their music reflected these dynamic changes. Unique rhythms were cultivated on every island, from Reggae through Merengue, Bachata, Son, Calypso, Compas, Zouk and Soca to Salsa (in its different versions either from Cuba or Puerto Rico). Often joyous and danceable, Caribbean music also serves to contest inequity, protest imperialism and injustice, and offer social commentary particularly in Nueva Trova, Calypso and Reggae. Many musical instruments are inherited from the aboriginal people such as the Guiro, Maracas and other rattles and the Claves. Yet others are the result of the ingenuity of the African slaves who resorted to using the materials their tormentors discarded. Today, this can still be seen in Steel drums made out of empty barrels of oil, the Tambora Dominicana made out of an empty barrel of wine or rum, cowbells adapted from the bells found attached to cows’ necklaces, and the Cuban Cajon originally made out of an empty fruit box.

The Educational presentation formats are summarized as follows:

Performance with or without Extended Commentary

MarKamusic offers a performance with extended introductions and commentaries prefacing each number. Various theories on how ancient native and traditional instruments may have come about are revealed along with detailed descriptions of many of the instruments to be used during the performance. The provenance and the socio-cultural contexts from which each song emerged and their lyrical content are explained. Finally, the historical and geographical background of the song is revealed as well. A few members of the audience are welcomed onto the stage to perform a couple of songs with the band by playing simple musical patterns on percussion instruments. Toward the end of the performance, questions are welcomed from the audience with the encouragements of the group. These introductory discussions can be varied in length, content and audience participation-interaction according to the presenter's needs.

Interactive Concerts with or without Discussions
Markamusic members present a lively series of interactive discussions about traditional, native/aboriginal and western instruments used in Latin America, historical notes about the cultural and socio-economic contexts that produced them, the many different forms of South American music, and how they have evolved from the early musical expressions of the original native population into the modern mix of multi-national traditions. The varied instruments are placed on display and participants are encouraged to handle them. Given the time, small groups of volunteers are shown how to play basic rhythmical patterns on the percussion instruments. The workshop is concluded with a question and answer discussion period.

Spanish class
These workshops are primarily designed as a cultural experience for a Spanish class, preferably for an advanced group yet, the ensemble will tailor it to any level audience. These presentations are a vehicle to expose members of the audience to the culture of Latin America and its language in an authentic, experiential context.  MarKamusic conducts the workshop as much as possible in Spanish (this will be done according to the Spanish competency level of the audience).  The exchange will center on the instruments and the music performed by the ensemble, with comments about the contextual provenance of songs, instruments and rhythms, lyrical content and the specific cultural groups that produce them. This is a very interesting approach since there are more than 25 countries in Latin America with distinctively different musics and cultural traditions. We aim to debunk western dominant culture’s stereotypical view of Latin America as a singular, non-distinct culture. Even though the repertoire of the ensemble does not include all the "musics'' or instruments that can be found in Latin America our selection is a good first approximation into the music and culture of the continent. Finally we may  share the personal cultural experiences of the Latino band members. This type of workshop provides a well-rounded and entertaining cultural event for young people of all ages.

Academic Workshops, Seminars, lectures and Demonstrations
In these lectures/workshops MarKamusic expands on the historical socio-political development of Latin America through its musical traditions. The music of the region replicated the ongoing ideological and economic changes that took place in the continent after the European invasion. The social functions of music also changed over the centuries and played an indispensable roll within Latin American societies. Right after the conquest, as the authoritarian Spanish rulers seized control of all official ideological apparatuses (government, school, church and family nucleus), music became the only available vehicle of expression for the fading aboriginal groups. Later in the 1900’s during the era of the military dictatorships and caudillos – 60’to the 80’- popular music became the single most effective political channel for newly developed vanguard political organizations. In order to understand how music acquired its political voice, it is necessary to address the historical context that gave it birth. To begin with, most of the native civilizations lacked hand writing, therefore music had already acquired the greatest importance as a communication vehicle prior to the European invasion. Throughout the last 500 hundred years, music was the space where the Indians, the dispossessed and the bethroden entrusted hopes, disappointments and successes. It was not until the early 70’s when the political edge of music reached its most important phase, particularly with the coup d’etat that removed democratically elected president Allende in Chile. The Pinochet military Junta outlawed all performance and airings of Andean music and its instruments of choice because Andean musicians had politically favored and helped to propagate the tenets of Allende’s ideology through the content of their songs. In Chile, Andean music and musicians became synonymous with “communist”. The political processes in other South American countries gave birth to new hybrid types of musics that mixed Rock, Classical Music and Jazz with Traditional music. The western elements present in these new hybrid musical forms made the music acceptable to the regimes that had decried traditional music forms as socialist and thereby, prohibited. At the same time, the social movements of the era gave start to a massive process of creolization, which will also be revisited to explain how it aided in the creation and propagation of new and emerging musical traditions. The influx of western cultural discourses, the role of tradition and folklore in the dissemination of popular culture and music, the politicization of musical texts and the phenomenon of cultural imperialism in postmodern Latin America will all be discussed in order to contextually understand the music produced in Latin America from a social constructivist approach (ideologization into liberation). This would be a workshop/lecture of high academic interest for a Sociology, Anthropology, Latin American Studies, Political Science or Ethnomusicology class/department.

Hands-on Workshops
MarKamusic offers two types of hands–on workshops:

1- Instrument Demonstrations:
These workshops primarily consist of extended commentaries focused on how ancient native and traditional instruments may have come about along with detailed descriptions and comparisons to many of the modern instruments used during our performances. The historical provenance, the socio-cultural context and the geographical background from which each instrument emerged as well as the materials utilized in their construction are explained/discussed. A few members of the audience are welcomed onto the stage to play simple musical patterns on some of these instruments. Toward the end of the workshop, questions are welcomed from the audience with the encouragements of the ensemble. These presentations can be varied in length, content and audience participation-interaction according to the presenter's needs.
2- Instrument Making Workshops (good for audiences ages 5 and Up)
These workshops focus on traditional wind and string instruments. After a presentation on the traditional instruments and their origins, suitable materials and simple tools (provided by sponsor) are distributed to the participants (lengths of PVC pipe, glue, corks, duck tape, small tin cans, grains, pebbles, sections of wood dowels, keys, fishing lines, etc) and they are then instructed and supported in the making of zampoñas (Andean pan-pipes), wind makers, whistles, bird callers, shakers, etc. The participants are then shown the rudiments on how to play these instruments. Contingent upon available time, participants are shown one or more simple traditional patterns. Time permitting these hands-on instrument making workshops can be combined to include all instruments or as many as you would like. The Pan Pipe making workshop is the lengthiest of all and it requires at least three solid hours for completion.  Residencies on stringed instrument making, the history of the Puerto Rican Cuatro, the evolution of Puerto Rican String Instruments and the history of the Spanish guitar are offered by MarKamusic friend, guitar maker and educator William R. Cumpiano by special arrangement
There are 8 different instrument making workshops offered by MarKamusic:

1.      How to Make Cuban claves
2.      How to make a wood knocker (Insect sounding instrument)
3.      How to make Zampoñas
4.      How to make Key chimes
5.      How to make a wind maker
6.      How to make a Bird caller or whistle
7.      How to make an Ocarina
8.      How to make a shaker

All of our educational presentations can be offered as lengthier residencies and seminars or tailored as in-depth lectures.

Freddy Chapelliquen , 12 Charles Lane , Amherst MA 01002-3801 USA   Voice: 413-549-9155