A documentary that recounts a musical journey through the Atacama desert and the Altiplano, taking the so-called “Andean bronze bands” as its central axis, and exploring the musical roots and veins of what are now Bolivia, Chile and Peru, and whose maximum expression is found in the carnival of Oruro, which was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2001, and is currently exhibited online at the Cineteca Nacional.
This is “Kamanchaka”, a journey that immerses the viewers in the union and coexistence that exists in this region, through its powerful melodies, songs and dances of this territory. A story that approaches the ancestral heritage of the Andean world and how this cultural phenomenon penetrates big cities, challenging the passage of time.
“Perhaps the first approximation is intuitive and arose because in Chile we also have that cultural root, something I wanted to investigate and which is undoubtedly embodied in much of the extensive national discography, emblematic Chilean artists such as Violeta Parra, Los Jaivas, Grupo Congreso, Inti-Illimani, Quilapayún, just to name a few,” explains its director, Marcelo Gaete.
“These bands have a musical inspiration, very close to the Andean world, including in their repertoire works with elements of various Andean styles, something that is an inexhaustible source in our music, a cultural heritage that means an invaluable treasure for our peoples and also for humanity”.
Gaete says the idea for the film dates back more than a decade, when he approached the bronze bands of the far north of the country, mainly Arica and Iquique.
“I was shooting different places with other shots, they caught my attention for the strength and originality of the Andean rhythms, such as diabladas, morenadas, caporales or the suggestive tinku dances, which are ancestral dances, rituals of agricultural origin that are practiced many centuries ago,” he recalls.
Then a couple of years passed and the cinematic idea of a musical journey took shape in a film script, which became a film project, obtaining the award from the CAIA audiovisual fund, for its filming, among other supports.
The director recognizes the links with this music since his student days, in the late 90s and early 2000s, with some trips to the highlands and the Atacama desert.
“At that time, concepts like cultural syncretism and other topics were already being discussed in academic spaces, basically, how Andean communities are adapting foreign elements to their original culture,” he explains.
Subsequently, in Santiago, the Banda Conmoción appeared on the way, a group that widely spread the format of the bronze bands in Chile, with a large Nordic repertoire.
“I knew some of the musicians and started shooting early works in this style with them,” he says.
In the research phase, the director and his team were able to verify that native Andean wind instruments, made with wood, horns, bones and shells, among others, have existed for thousands of years and are still present in musical groups, which they only use these types of tools.
“To place the bronzes in a timeline, they arrive at the triple border of Chile, Bolivia and Peru, at the end of the 19th century, with the military bands of the three countries, in the years following the War of the Pacific,” says the director.
They were groups made up only of military musicians who played to exercise sovereignty and entertain the inhabitants of the border towns. It was during those years and subsequent decades that Andean rhythms began to blend and adapt to the format of bronze instruments. These have given greater volume and sound to larger spaces, they have remained and the communities have adopted them, and over time they have expanded into the territories.
“Today in the country we have groups from Arica to Magallanes. But curiously brass bands are not a particular phenomenon of the Andean area, it also happened in Europe in the Balkan region with gypsy rhythms, in the north of England with coal miners, in the New Orleans before jazz, Korea and Brazil incorporating them into carnival, among many others,” he completes.
One of the characteristics of the phenomenon has been its massification, as the film shows.
“Perhaps it’s because there is a matrix of meaning that calls us to connect with a varied and fascinating ancestral world, which belongs to us and which invites us to discover”, ventures the director trying to explain it.
“In addition, it is a tool for social cohesion and fraternity, during the filming we could observe that music and dance groups are increasing in a very rapid process, they have integrated very well in carnivals and celebrations of all kinds, it is a spirit of joy that envelops and draws the attention of young people, they approach a world out of everyday life and without borders, then the dances and powerful melodies do their job, because they fascinate people of all ages, where even the public plays an active role and a participatory role,” he says.
However, the tape also indicates the differences between the gangs of the different places mentioned, such as Oruro, Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, Copiapó and Santiago.
“I would say that there are several nuances that could differentiate brass bands musically. For example, in Iquique some bands play cumbia and tropical music, something we haven’t seen in Copiapó, because they are a bit more folkloric. In Santiago there are is a diversity of bands, which cultivate different Andean styles, there are also brass bands, which are closer to Balkan rhythms and others with more Latin American rhythms,” he says.
“On the other hand, in Oruro we met and filmed with the Poopó Intercontinental Band, which is considered the largest brass band in the world, with more than 180 musicians playing at the same time, it’s very impressive.”
Currently Chile and Bolivia do not have diplomatic relations. How can culture, in this case music, help rebuild ties?
“We are very close peoples and countries in the broadest sense, neighbors who share a territory where great Andean cultural diversity coexists, not only two centuries ago with the creation of the republics, but many centuries ago,” reflects the director in this regard. .
“Currently the first responsibility, that of rebuilding diplomatic relations, lies with the political authorities of both governments and we hope they will do it soon, it is an important thing”.
On the other hand, according to him, there is already a very solid cultural link, religious festivals, pagan carnivals and other events favor a permanent cultural exchange between the two countries, through music and dance groups that travel to and from Bolivia. such as La Tirana in Tarapacá, the Carnival with La Fuerza del Sol, in Arica or Ayquina in Calama, are some places where many Bolivian bands and musicians from the plateau come to cheer them up.
There are also many who go to carnivals in Bolivia, where they exhibit their dances and learn new tools to develop themselves, and who in many cases join a local dance group, where brotherhood associations are formed, for example for form a branch of that Bolivian group, in other Chilean cities, including Santiago, spontaneously forming international Andean cultural groups, he adds.
“So, with all this verifiable reality, the question arises: why can people generate true coexistence and states not?”, he asks.
To learn more about what is happening in the world of science and culture, join our Cultívate community, El Mostrador newsletter on these topics. sign up for free HERE