Dia de Arequipa, 15 Agosto, 2007

Arequipa, the diaspora, nostalgia and music

For Peruvians abroad there are several composers and singers who have universally “touched the chord of nostalgia” and produced what could be considered unofficial international anthems of the diaspora*. César Alfredo Miró Quesada Bahamonde, better known as César Miró(See footnote) (1907-1999) created the nostalgically beautiful “Todos vuelven a la tierra en que nacieron al embrujo incomparable de su sol . . ." (For other verses see below). The best known version,(see this blog for an example of how Peruvians feel about it) perhaps, is that of Jesús Vásquez and Victor Dávalos. She had (Jesus can be a “she”, in this case María de Jesus, and Maria a “he” in Latin America) previously recorded “Todos vuelven” as a solo piece*. Victor Dávalos was from Arequipa in the South of Peru, and formed part of the famous Los Hnos (Brothers) Dávalos.


The cloisters of the Jesuit Church in Arequipa, Peru.

Alternating between solo and duet in this famous creole* waltz, Vásquez and Dávalos have produced an international masterpiece which reaches the hearts of millions, especially at times, such as now (National Day 28 July and Arequipa Day 15 August . . .), when Peruvians abroad are thinking particularly of their “home” country. A rather more modern version is that of the 1991 New Orleans Jazz Festival [[1]] in which Ruben Blades internationalises the song. But perhaps more appropriate for the Dia de Arequipa on August 15th, at least for the grey-haired brigade, is Los Davalos singing Rio de Arequipa or Blanca Ciudad or Melgar . . . or La Chabuca Granda with her inimitable Arequipay. Chabuca also gave Peru its own mass and in this version Rafael Matallana interprets the Kyrie y Gloria of Chabuc'a Misa Criolla performed at the Concierto de Navidad 1996 in Lima’s main square, infront of the Cathedral. And whilst we are at the more “highbrow” end of the Peruvian cultural spectrum, it might be interesting to eavesdrop in on Luis Antonio Meza’s concerto performed by Liliana Cino with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional del Perú, director José Carlos Santos.

N.B. Two of the most popular U-tubers videos about Arequipa are: (1) Arequipa, Peru and (2) Arequipa (These are the titles used on the YouTube screen)

Footnote 1. James Higgins comments that "the most significant development from the 1930s onwards was the adoption of the canción criolla by Lima’s middle classes, who found in it an expression of their sense of themselves as Peruvians." Writers and intellectuals also took to the canción criolla. "In the 1930s, for example, the writer César Miró, then living in Paris, opted to express his homesickness for Peru through the medium of the vals, composing in the process one of the canonical works of the genre, ‘Todos vuelven’ . . . (Higgins, James. The Canción Criolla, Journal of Peruvian Cultural Studies.

A detour: China, Palestine, and Israel

(This section could be moved to another page / thread related to cross-cultural music; nostalgia etc.)

In his tour of China, Isaac Stern is quoted as saying that “the easiest way to learn about another country is to meet there other professionals in ones own field”. He proves his point in an extraordinary musical dialogue that he developed with the musicians of the Central Philamonic Orchestra of Beijing. To turn to another trans-cultural encounter Yo Yo Ma, now one of the globe’s most accomplished cellistswas born in France of a family with Chinese roots, but with US citizenship. Together with Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said they founded the East-West Divan (Arab-Israeli) Orchestra which has done much to show how music can bring cultures together (To tie Yo Yo Ma into the Latin American context see the Finale). Yo Yo Ma tugs not only at his cello chords but also at out heart-strings, reminding us of the cello concertos performed by Jacqueline Du Pré.


Finally let’s reverse the question? If you have some English roots, which (classical) piece of music is significantly nostalgic for you. For many Elgar has provided the key pieces. The First Movement (Adagio - Moderato) of the cello concierto played by Jacqueline Du Pré and conducted by her husband Daniel Barenboim now has almost iconic status.

Return to sequence PERU 3000BC to 1963 after this excursion into Arequipa and Palestine, etc! Caral slides for workshop editing.

  • There are several terms which need to be clarified in subsequent discussion and editing. Remember that if anything needs correction, just do it - without fear or favour. This article was begun as a letter for the fiestas patrias, but could be used to initiate threads (or threaded discussions / topics) on a number of musical and other themes.

_______________________________________________________________________________ The words of “Todos vuelven”

       Lam          MI                Lam
Todos vuelven a la tierra en que nacieron
      LA7                      Rem
 al embrujo incomparable de su sol
 Todos vuelven al rincon en que vivieron
        FA                       MI
 donde acaso florecio mas de un amor
         Lam       MI          Lam
 bajo el arból solitario del silencio
       LA7                    Rem
 tantas veces nos ponemos a soñar 

 todos vuelven por la ruta del recuerdo
          MI                       Lam
 pero el tiempo del amor no vuelve mas.

		   Lam       Rem         Lam
 		 El aire que trae en sus manos 
 		  Rem         Lam      Rem      Lam
		 la flor del pasado su aroma de ayer
   		  DO       SOL7       DO
		 nos dice muy quedo al oido 
  		  SOL7        DO     SOL7    DO MI
		 su canto aprendido del atardecer 
  		    Lam     Rem       Lam
		 nos dice con voz misteriosa
   		  Rem       Lam     Rem       Lam - LA7
		 de nardo y de rosa de luna y de miel.

Finale: Yo Yo Ma and a Latin American interlude


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