Sunday, September 17, 2017

POLAND: THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE


I am a big fan of James Michener’s novels. For those who don’t know his works, he writes epic novels that typically tell the history of a place, using the place as the central character in many cases. His style is more or less a mix of fictional characters and situations in the midst of actual historical characters and situations. So far, I’ve read Alaska, Covenant (about South Africa), Iberia, Mexico, Texas, and This Noble Land. My mom introduced me to him years ago and had read Poland not too long ago, and several months ago I found a copy of Poland at a used bookstore, but I haven’t had the chance to start it yet (thanks to the Outlander series and the hundreds of books I have on my shelf). 

 
The name Poland is named from the 8th century tribe of people called Polans. Also known as Polanie, it’s based on a Slavic word meaning “field.” However, in many languages, the name for Poland is a variation of Lechites, after the legendary leader of the Polans, Lech I. 


The country of Poland is located in north-central Europe. It is bordered by the Baltic Sea to the north, the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad to the north, Lithuania to the northeast, Belarus to the east, Ukraine to the southeast, Slovakia to the south, Czechia to the southwest [the new name of Czech Republic], and Germany to the west. Poland is known for its numerous lakes and the southern part of the country is highly mountainous.
 
University of Krakow
The earliest known peoples in this area were many distinct groups of Slavic people. In the years around 1000AD, many of these Slavic tribes began converting to Christianity and began to unite as one people. During the first few centuries after this, they went through many changes in government, religion, rulers, relationships with other countries, and military. The first university charter (University of Kraków) was established, and Poland luckily was mostly spared from the Black Death that ravaged much of Europe. Poland was largely a feudal state during the Middle Ages, and afterwards saw a Renaissance, including Nicolaus Copernicus’ theory that the sun was the center of the universe, not the earth. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was formed and took up quite a bit of Eastern Europe. They fought several conflicts with the Russians, the Ottoman Empire, and the Swedes. The 18th and 19th centuries saw many uprisings and conflicts that led to losses/gains in territory as well as changes in the government. Poland gained its independence again after WWI, but only to find itself in a war with Russia (again). Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, followed by Russia a couple weeks later. Poland suffered insurmountable devastation and death: nearly 1/5 of Poland’s population died during the war, and half of those were Polish Jews. After WWII, the Soviets still occupied Poland and turned it into a communist state. Although it was one of the more lenient communist countries, it remained so until 1989. Poland has made great strides economically and politically as it transitioned to a democratic nation during the 1990s and 2000s.   


With about 3.1 million people, Warsaw is Poland’s capital and largest city. This city was founded in 1323 on the banks of the Vistula River. Prior to WWII, it was considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world, that is, until the Nazis came in and destroyed most of it. By the end of the war, over 85% of the city’s buildings were destroyed and were rebuilt in the years and decades that followed. Today, it’s a major tourist destination and serves as an economic, cultural, media, governmental center – it also has the largest number of skyscrapers in the EU. But hey, does size really matter anyway?

Copernicus Science Center, Warsaw
After the fall of communism, Poland’s economy gained momentum as one of the fasted growing economies in the EU. It transitioned to a market-based economy and encouraged the privatization of businesses that were once state-owned. They have several strong agricultural exports as well as a number of other manufacturing-based products. Poland has established itself as a center for scientific research and development, and many international companies have set up R&D centers here. Poland also ranks high for tourism between its modern cities on the backdrop of beautiful scenery.  

Pope John Paul II
Although Poland is primarily Christian (and Roman Catholic at that), it was also the only country in Europe—back in 1264—that granted legal rights to Jews living there. Several other groups have settled in Poland over the years after having struggles in their own countries: Calvinists, Anabaptists, and atheists. Actually up until WWII, it was one of the more religiously tolerant areas of Europe. Things changed after the war. It’s still considered one of the most devout countries in Europe. And with 87% of the population as Catholic, the Catholic Church has only had one Polish Pope: Pope John Paul II.  

Sign in Polish and Belarusian
The official language is Polish, part of the Slavic family of languages. I read on a very questionable article a few years ago that listed which languages are hardest to learn for English-speakers, and Polish was listed as the number-one hardest language. And without studying it, I agree. It just LOOKS hard. If Polish were a meme, it would say, “You think German had too many consonants next to each other? Hold my beer.” Anyway, they also granted an ethnic minority status to several languages: Kashubian, German, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Russian, Rusyn, Czech, Slovak, and Yiddish.


I realize after mentioning that I’m looking for Polish recipes how large of a Polish population there is in the US. I regret that when we lived in Chicago, we never made it to the Polish section of the city to eat. Maybe this fall or winter, we can take a trip back up there to check it out. However, I was amazed that several people offered up recipes that are popular in their half-Polish or part-Polish families. Many of these seem vaguely family to my part-German family, so I know it’s gonna be fantastic. But if I make everything that sounds good, I’d never get to the end of this blog.

Up next: art and literature

Monday, September 11, 2017

PHILIPPINES: THE FOOD


Well, this was a weird week. Last weekend was Labor Day, so we had a three-day weekend. And for a short week, it lasted at least a month. Seeing how I knew this weekend was going to be super busy, I made two of my recipes on Labor Day when I wasn’t doing anything. My weekends in September and October are pretty busy with ethnic fests and fall fests and arts fests galore. Yesterday was Scottish Fest (and yes, I tried the haggis). 

Not too bad and was pretty filling.

So, last weekend, I made two dishes. The first one was Pork and Shrimp Pancit. I’m going to preface this by saying that I don’t think my recipe was quite as specific as I needed it to be. I bought a package of rice noodles, but I didn’t know if this is made with straight noodles or the vermicelli kind. So, I went with the straight noodles. I soaked my noodles in warm water for about 20 minutes and then drained them. In my large skillet, I sautéed my noodles but they were still a little stiff, so I added some water to see if I could get them softer. I removed them when I thought they were ready, adding a tad more oil to the skillet and sautéed my onion, garlic, ginger, and shrimp (I used cooked salad shrimp) and ground pork that I cooked and divided in half between this dish and the next (I actually just bought some bratwursts and removed the casings). Once I mixed those together and let it sauté for a few minutes, I added in my bok choy, soy sauce (in lieu of oyster sauce), crushed red pepper, and chicken broth and let it simmer until the bok choy was wilted. Then I spooned this mixture over my noodles and topped with some chopped green onions. I thought it had the potential to be really good, and it was pretty tasty. I just wondered if I got the right noodles. Mine were still a little stiff and chewy, like they weren’t cooked long enough. I think if the noodles were cooked differently and not according to this recipe, it would’ve turned out better. But it wasn’t bad.

I feel like every Filipina grandmother is shaking their head at me.
The second dish I made was lumpia, a dish widely known in Philippine cuisine and similar to spring rolls. However, mine didn’t turn out anything like what I thought it was supposed to be. I started out making the filling. I had already cooked the pork earlier and set it off to the side. In the same skillet, I sautéed the minced garlic and onion before stirring in the pork, green onions, cabbage and carrots (I found a bag of Southern-style cole slaw which contains the shredded cabbage and carrots, so that saved me some time). Then I added in a little salt and pepper, garlic powder, and soy sauce. Once it had sautéed for another minute, I took it off the heat and set it to the side. Here’s where I think I messed up. I couldn’t find lumpia wrappers, and the closest thing I could find where I was shopping was springroll wraps. But I’ve never worked with these before. These were waxy and had to be dipped in warm water before you could use them. I tried putting the filling in the middle, but then I had no idea how to roll them. Every single one of them was completely different, fat and miserable looking. But I tried frying them anyway, and most of them burst apart. So, it was a minor disaster. However, they still tasted good, especially with a little hoisin sauce. Somewhere, there’s a deep existential story here. 

Totally delicious. I can see why this is so popular. Slightly sweet -- it goes perfectly with strong coffee.
So, today I made my bread: pandesal. I was heading out to a picnic and thought I’d cross two things off at one time. So, I started this out by mixing my yeast in with my warm milk and adding in 2 tsp of sugar. I set it off to the side for 5-10 minutes. Then I mixed 4 ½ c of all-purpose flour and 1 ½ tsp of salt. I was supposed to use part all-purpose flour and part bread flour, but… I didn’t do that. In a separate bowl, I mixed the yeast mixture with 1/3 c sugar, 3 Tbsp of softened butter, and 2 eggs that were slightly beaten. Once all of that was mixed together, I slowly poured in my flour a little at a time and stirred until it came together as a dough. I rolled it in a little oil and covered it for an hour. After that time, I kneaded it a little and formed it into 24 rolls, rolling each one in bread crumbs. After baking it in a 350ºF oven for 18-20 minutes (or until it starts to look golden brown), I took it out and let it cool. I liked these. The outside was hard, but the insides were soft and were actually almost sweet. I tried putting hummus on it, but I didn’t like that so much. Jams or jellies, on the other hand, would be much better.

And one day, she'll catch that light that moved across the carpet.
Because I spread this meal out, I didn’t really get a photo of the whole meal together. So, here’s a picture of my cat, Morocco. She hates to be picked up and usually sits on top of my printer giving me judgmental looks while I write. She’s my biggest critic and hates her job as my writers block escape. Her goals in life are to be fed and be left the hell alone to contemplate the problems of the world. But then again, those are some of my goals, too. This is why we get along so well.

Up next: Poland

Saturday, September 9, 2017

PHILIPPINES: MUSIC AND DANCE


The music from the Philippines has its origins in a number of musical traditions: indigenous music, Asian, Spanish, Latin American, and American music. 


A lot of the traditional musical styles are similar to that of Indonesia and Malaysia. One of the main styles they’re known for is gong music. There’s a couple different kinds of gong music: one is called gangsà, or flat gongs. It’s usually played in groups is the Islamic and animist communities of the southern regions of the country. The other kind is kulintang, which is a racked gong chime. These are also played in ensembles and are distantly related to he gamelan music of Indonesia. 

 
Spanish music also has a great influence on their music, which is understandable considering that the Spanish controlled the Philippines for over three centuries. Many folk tunes are borrowed from the Spanish but with Tagalog or other local languages used for the lyrics. Rondalla is a type of music with origins in the Iberian Peninsula and uses instruments like guitars, double basses, mandolins, and drums. The Harana and Kundiman are lyrical songs that grew in popularity during the 1920s. It starts out in a minor key, switches to a major one halfway through and is based on the rhythms of a habanera.


There are a couple of dances that are well known in the Philippines. The Cariñosa is often considered the national dance. Its key element is its use of the fan and handkerchief as an expression of the loving nature of courtship. The Cariñosa has ties to both Mexican dances and traditional dances of the Visayas and Mindanao regions of the Philippines. Another dance is the Tinikling dance, which involves two performers hitting bamboo poles while another dancer(s) dance over the poles.


So, as far as modern musical groups go, I listened to several on Spotify. The first one I listened to was Eraserheads. They have an interesting sound. It’s almost like a cross between rock with some electronic elements. They used a variety of different sounds from what sounded like an organ and electric piano to different guitars. After listening to several songs, I’m still not sure what I think of it. I kind of like it, but it’s not quite what I was expecting.


Another band I listened to is Parokya Ni Edgar. They sound like they came straight from the 1990s. Acoustic guitar and catchy riffs make this something that I can get behind. I’m not sure what they’re saying most of the time, except the times when he sings in English. It’s not overly complicated music, but it’s decent. The band Rivermaya is another group who plays in a similar style.


Razorback has a harder sound, which I was immediately drawn to. I actually really liked what I heard. Their playing was tight, and the vocals had a certain edge to it that fit the style of music. Definitely on my list to go back and listen to. Wolfgang and Greyhoundz are two other bands that fall in this category, except Greyhoundz uses more of a rap-metal style. 


Slapshock is clearly in the metal category, complete with screaming and everything. However, they reprieve themselves with melodic lines intermixed between the screaming. I really liked these guys, actually.


Joey Ayala’s music seems to be based on traditional music, with harmonious vocals and acoustic instruments. Grace Nono is another one who falls into the traditional category; however, her music has much more of a Spanish influence to it. 


I did come across some hip-hop groups. The first one I listened to is Gloc 9. The background music is catchy, but the vocal style almost reminds me of reggaeton. Andrew E. is another one, but his music sounds more like a club mix but with a Latin flair to it. It was pretty catchy, though. Definitely sounds like party music. 


The music of Somedaydream has more electronic elements to it, and while a few are more instrumental, most are mixed with pop-style vocals, like David Guetta-esque I suppose. The style of each song can vary, but it makes for a good listen, though. 


Up next: the food

Thursday, September 7, 2017

PHILIPPINES: ART AND LITERATURE


One of the earliest forms of art found in the Philippines is pottery. Pottery was a key element for advancing a society because it allowed people to store and cook food. Early pottery was made with clay, and they created a variety of pots and containers for a number of purposes from food preparations (cooking, eating, storing food) to ceremonial uses (urns). Over time, the styles and decorations changed on each pot. 

 
Filipino women are also skilled in weaving. Some of the materials they use in traditional weaving are the fibers from pineapple, cotton, bark cloth, and abaca (the same material that also gives us Manila folders). Depending on what they are making, woven baskets, mats, cloth, rugs, hats, and other items were commonly made. 

by Fernando Amorsolo
After the Spanish arrived, they introduced European-style painting. In the beginning, the Spanish brought along quite a few religious paintings and used them to teach the islanders about Christianity. In turn, they also taught them how to paint. At first, the Filipinos painted in the same style that the Spanish taught them: only Christian/religious paintings. But around the 19th century, certain Filipino artists who were wealthier than others began to branch out and break tradition: they introduced secular paintings like Filipino landscapes and Filipino subject, not European Christian themes. They began to paint themselves, their culture, and their land. And as war hit their country during the 20th century, they used painting and art as a means of expression to deal with the pain and destruction of their country.
 
by Elito Circa -- because a painting of Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao painted in human blood is exactly what the world was missing.
A few artists of note include Elito Circa (folk artist who paints with human hair, blood, and body fluids), Juan Luna (painter, sculptor, political activist during 19th century Philippine Revolution), Benedicto Cabrera (famous painter, known as BenCab), Fernando Amorsolo (famous painter of portraits and landscapes), David Medalla (sculpture, performance art, installation, kinetic art), Augusto Arbizo (artist, painter, curator), Rey Paz Contreras (sculptor, famous for using recycled materials), Félix Hidalgo (famous painter of 19th century), Malang (cartoonist, illustrator, painter), Ang Kiukok (painter, worked in cubism, surrealism, expressionism), Lito Mayo (graphic artist, print maker, sculptor, art professor), and Anita Magsaysay-Ho (counted as one of the major painters in the Philippines—and only female included in the “greats” list).
 
by Anita Magsaysay-Ho
Of the earliest forms of literature, epic stories were one of the primary forms of storytelling. Most of these stories were told by word of mouth and passed down from generation to generation. Some of the wealthier families were able to afford to have these stories transcribed down. One of the more famous epic stories is Darangen, a story that originated from the Maranao people of the southern island Mindanao.



Although I imagine there was a certain amount of literature produced during the years the Spanish controlled the country, most of the canon of modern literature was created after the United States took over. As Filipino writers witnessed the transformation to a new colonial period, much of the literature during the first few decades were in response to the Spanish-controlled times. As the 20th century progressed, the Modernismo genre took a prominent role, steeped in the literary traditions of Latin America.



Notable authors include Estrella Alfon, Francisco Arcellana, Liwayway Arceo, Jose Garcia Villa, Peter Solis Nery, F. Sionil José, Francisco Balagtas,  Lualhati Bautista, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Nick Joaquin, and N.V.M. Gonzáles.

Up next: music and dance

Monday, September 4, 2017

PHILIPPINES: THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE


When I was in elementary school, we were given pen pals. I got one from the Philippines, and we wrote back and forth for years. I would always send her little things like pennies, keychains, whatever I could fit in an envelope that didn’t weigh much. She would send me little things like shells, little paper beads and stuff like that. Occasionally, I’d send her a dollar or something. We wrote back and forth for years. In 1991, Mt. Pinatubo erupted, and it was the second largest eruption of the 20th century. It spewed more particulate in the air since the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 (I was super fascinated by this event after I read Twenty-One Balloons). I never heard from her afterwards. 

The islands were given its current name by the Spanish, who arrived during the mid-1500s. They named them after King Phillip II of Spain. It had changed names several times, but nothing too incredibly far from this name. After WWII, it officially became the Republic of the Philippines. 



The Philippines are a group of over 7600 islands in South Asia. Taiwan lies directly north of the island chain; Palau is to the east; Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei lie to the south and southwest; Vietnam is to the west; and China lies to the northwest. The South China Sea stands between the Philippines and mainland Asia; the Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea stand between them and Indonesia and Malaysia; and the Philippine Sea is between these islands and other Pacific Islands to the east, extending up to Japan. Because of its proximity to the equator, it stays warm all year round and has a tropical climate. And because of its location along the Ring of Fire, they experience frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity. 


One of the earliest peoples to call this group of islands their home was the Negritos, who are thought to have originally come from Africa. Other Austronesians from China, Taiwan, and elsewhere throughout southeastern Asia began to settle there later on. For the most part, each island or group of islands were pretty isolated and independent from each other, like island states. They traded with Indonesian, Malaysians, Chinese, Japanese, and other Pacific Islanders. Eventually Indian and Arab traders arrived and set up small ruling territories as Hindu and Islamic states during the 14-16th centuries. In the early 1500s, the Spanish arrived to expand Christianity and claim the land for Spain. Of course, the Spanish had to put up a fight to be there. And even after they established new trading partners with Latin America, they put down quite a few revolts and fought with the Moros (Muslim rebels) for hundreds of years. As a result of the 1898 Treaty of Paris negotiated after the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Islands were handed over to the US. The US did manage to suppress some of these rebellious states and was given Commonwealth status in 1935. The Japanese invaded during WWII, and the Bataan Death March was considered one of the most tragic loss of life events during the war (est. 5600-18,000 American and Philippine POW deaths). By the end of the war, it’s estimated more than a million Filipinos have died. After the war, the US recognized its independence, and it became a part of the UN. However, they have had trouble with stability in government. During Corazon Aquino’s term as president, the US finally abandoned their military base (something we should do everywhere). Today, their controversial president Rodrigo Duterte continues to make the headlines over his aggressive War on Drugs policies.



The capital city is Manila, located on the northern island of Luzon (the largest island in the Philippines). The name may refer to the phrase “place where there are flowering mangrove trees.” Located on Manila Bay, it’s one of the densest cities in the world. It has many examples of European-style architecture along with one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. The city has a modernity that rivals other major cities while still holding on to its traditional shops and restaurants. 



The Philippines are transitioning from an agricultural based economy to one that’s based on industry and services. They are strong exporters of fruits, coconut oil, copper products, petroleum products, garments, and electronic equipment (including semiconductors). They are also really expanding their science and technology sectors. After WWII, the Philippines had one of the strongest economies in Asia, behind Japan. Since then, they’ve went through some recessions and growth. Goldman Sachs considered the Philippines as one of the Next Eleven economies.


Although it’s listed as a secular state on the book, the majority religion is Christianity. Nearly 80% follow Catholicism (as introduced by the Spanish), and around 10% follow Protestantism (as introduced by the Americans). There is a significant number of Muslims (10%) living in the Philippines, mostly living in a couple of states. There are also Buddhists, Baha’is, Hindus, Jews, and followers of traditional religions. 


Both Filipino (Tagalog) and English are listed as official languages. There are actually 186 languages in the Philippines, but only 182 of those are still spoken (four of those have died off). Chavacano is a Spanish Creole that was spoken there. Because it was part of Spain for so long, Spanish used to be a lingua franca, but it has since lost that status. However, there are still quite a few Spanish loan words in the Filipino language that are still used today. Arabic is used mainly in Islamic Schools, and a number of other languages are taught as foreign languages.

Cell phone advertisement in the Philippines.
There are so many things about the Philippines that make it stand out, well, on one of those “little known facts that have a great impact” kind of level. The yoyo has its roots as a Filipino hunting weapon. The antibiotic erythromycin was created in 1949 by a Filipino doctor who worked for Eli Lilly and has saved the lives of millions of people who are allergic to penicillin. Filipinos also text more than the US and Europe combined (I’d get along well here). And if you think we push the Christmas season, you’d probably scream if you knew some Filipinos start their celebrations in September – a retailer’s dreamland (or nightmare, depending on how you look at it).

Up next: art and literature

Sunday, August 27, 2017

PERU: THE FOOD


I’m so glad that fall is right around the corner. It’s my favorite season for many reasons (and my birthday is just one of them). I’m looking forward for jacket weather again and apple cider and not sweating and high school football and Halloween and local festivals (I’ve got Scottish Highlander Games and Oktober Fests lined up on my calendar so far). It’s a busy time, but it’s all good.

I'm looking forward to snacking on these for breakfast.
And that brings me to the food of Peru. The first thing I’m making is Pan de Anis, or anise seed bread. I am using ground anise seed, so I skipped the parts on preparing the seeds. I took 1 ½ c of really hot water and 1 ½ Tbsp of ground anise seed, 1/3 c of sugar and one packet of yeast and mixed it altogether. Then I added in 2 c of flour and ¼ c of shortening, and 1 ½ tsp of salt and stirred until it came together as a dough, kneading it until it’s smooth. However, for some reason, this just wouldn’t set up like a dough should be. I emptied all my flour on it, and it was still too elastic. So, I just let it sit for an hour anyway. After this time was up, I looked at my dough as it did nothing for the past hour, and I had to use some left over spelt flour in order to combat its stickiness. Breaking it into golf ball-size pieces, I placed them on my baking sheet to rest for another 5 minutes. I was supposed to flatten each ball, roll it up like a crescent and twist it into a spiral, but this dough and I had to come to a realization that this just wasn’t in the bag. So, I brushed it with an egg wash and let them rise for another half hour. Then I baked them at 375ºF for about 15 minutes until they were golden brown. I’m not quite sure what I thought of these. The anise part was more subtle than I thought (but I ended up only using 1 Tbsp because that’s all I had left), and I think the spelt flour may have made a difference in how it cooked up. But regardless, I thought they weren’t that bad, albeit a little on the blander side than I imagined they would be.

All of my favorite things. I did cut back on the amounts of vinegar.
My main dish today is Lomo Saltado. I took a package of crinkle-cut French fries and made them according to the directions. Then I used pre-sliced carne asada meat (in lieu of beef tri-tip) and sautéed it in a little oil with some salt and pepper. Once it was cooked, I removed it from the skillet, and then fried my onions in the same skillet. When the onions started to look transparent, I stirred in my tomatoes that I cut into strips. Once the tomatoes softened, I poured in my white vinegar (I actually used red wine vinegar) and soy sauce, and added my French fries and beef back in to cook for another 3 minutes. I garnished this with a little parsley. I thought this was the best. It’s almost like a deconstructed hamburger and fries. Everyone seemed to like this.

This is my first experience ever with eating quinoa. I actually liked it.
To go with this, I also made Quinoa and Asparagus. I just felt that I couldn’t cover Peru and Andean cooking and not have quinoa. For this, I started by cooking down my onion and carrot in some butter for a few minutes, then I stirred in my boxed quinoa and let it cook for just a minute. Then I poured in 1 c of hot chicken broth over it and added in my seasoning packet and cooked uncovered until all of the liquid was absorbed. At this point, I stirred in some canned asparagus, reducing the heat and letting it simmer for another 10-15 minutes. I had to check on the broth levels so I don’t burn it all up like I usually do. When the grains are soft, I put in some Parmesan cheese, a little marjoram, and parsley. I liked this, even though I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever had quinoa. Clean eaters and hipsters have brought this grain to my attention, and I found this box at Aldi (I got the roasted red pepper and basil version, and this one was a quinoa-brown rice mix). I’m not sure that the kids enjoyed it as much, but they’re just gonna have to deal with it, because I’m buying more of these.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty good meal. I tried making a ceviche, but it didn't quite turn out. I'll check on it tomorrow.
As I read through a lot of articles and looked at pictures of Peru this past week, I’m convinced that I really would like to visit. As a foodie, Lima is one of those cities I believe I’ve underestimated in the past and has risen in my Bucket List of cities to visit. I believe I would just end up eating at every restaurant during the entire trip, though. They might have to bar me from the plane for exceeding the gross weight limit and force me to ride on a cargo ship back to the US. But maybe I can take a quick jog through the mountains. If I don’t turn them into hills after I'm done. 

Up next: Philippines

Saturday, August 26, 2017

PERU: MUSIC AND DANCE


Peru’s traditional music is made up of musical elements from several different cultures: Spanish, Andean, and African mainly. But each group contributed a certain portion to the whole. The indigenous Andean music lent many instruments (especially wind instruments) and many of the folk melodies. They combined that with African rhythms and percussion instruments, and European harmonies and other instruments were introduced, including a variety of string instruments. 


Several Peruvian instruments had been developed over the centuries. One of the instruments most associated with Peruvian music is the charango. This instrument is related to the lute and has several variations to it. It’s almost considered the national instrument. Of course, European instruments such as the Spanish guitar, violins, and harps also have made their place in Peruvian music. The cajón is a percussion instrument of African origin, and the cowbell may have also originated from there as well. A number of wind instruments of Andean origin are utilized in Peruvian music like the ocarina, panpipes, the waqra phuku (a type of trumpet), and a number of other types of flutes.


There are many dances that are performed in Peru, and many of these spill over into neighboring areas as well. Some of these dances are Andean in origin while others have been adapted from African or European traditions. Some dances that have strong indigenous or South American traditions include Huayño, Kantu, Diablada, Cueco, Cumbia, Carnavalito, and the Tondero. European traditions can be seen in dances such as Creole Waltz, Chumaichada, and the Polka. There are also several Afro-Peruvian dances that are quite popular, such as the Landó, Zamacueca, Festejo, and the Marinera.


The first rock bands grew out of the American and British rock scenes of the 1960s. Rockabilly, surf rock, garage rock, and psychedelic rock became quite popular with young Peruvians during this time. By the time the late 1970s and early 1980s came about, rock music went underground, and genres like punk and metal became a prominent form of expression as well. However, many Peruvian bands started moving toward more of a progressive rock sound during the 1990s and by the turn of the century, the scene has broadened into a diverse collection of musical styles.


I picked a handful of bands at random to listen to, although there were many Peruvian bands to sift through. I started with the band Frágil. They were a big deal when they first got started in the 1980s. I listened to their live album of them performing with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Lima. I kind of enjoyed it; their music quite melodic, and they really paired up well with the symphonic sound. 


Jumping forward, I listened to the band Huelga de hambre. They definitely have a harder sound to them with bass riffs, and the vocals reflect that edginess. I liked their sound.


Soda Stereo is another rock band that started out in the 1990s and continued to perform into the 2000s. They also have a harder rock sound to them at times, yet their vocal lines are melodic. I sense some hints of blues and psychedelic rock in with their music at times as well. It’s catchy. I like it.


When I listened to the Jaguares album Rock Latino, they used a lot of other styles in with their music. Outside of the rock genre it’s based on, they also incorporated a variety of other Latin-based rhythms and musical styles along with some blues.


Traffic Sound actually got its start in the late 1960s and used a lot of that roadhouse rock and psychedelic rock sound, not that different from artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Cream, or The Doors. And that automatically makes me drawn to them. I really liked what I heard.


The band 6 Voltios has kind of a punk sound to them, almost like a Green Day sound at times. I thought it was fun. I could see them being on the Vans Warped Tour soundtrack, if they made a Spanish-language version.


I didn’t do an extensive search, but I did find one hip-hop artist who was born in Lima but currently lives in the US. Immortal Technique typically raps about social injustices and other controversial topics. I listened to portions of his album called The 3rd World. It’s pretty deep. And the music is catchy. I look forward to listening to more of his stuff.

Up next: the food