An introduction to music

Along with all the people and artesanía that awaited us in one of the huts that makes up the abuela´s house, there was also a table in the corner with an assortment of flutes and drums (and an old two liter soda bottle full of opaque red-brown ayahuasca brewing–Bertha´s father is a curandero aka shaman).

First, we admired all of the work laid out by various women (Bertha´s mother and sister´s in law), totalling in the hundreds of seed-beaded necklaces, bracelets and anklets, several multicolored traditional Shipibo skirts, along with two muted brown ones (one of which I purchased for S/. 100) and about 15 embroidered servietas.

Then, after having looked at almost every necklace individually, (at one point I think I had a pile of 30 laid out on my lap, legs covered in rows of beads, no skin visible underneath), we all sat around in a circle together, Chris, I and Tomás-Bertha´s brother on a bench, several women and children sitting on the tarp with the artesanías and Bertha´s other brother Isiodoro laying on a hammock. It´s an interesting feeling, sitting around here with a bunch of people you don´t really know, but who are all very comfortable since it is where they live and they totally outnumber us and they are quite used to just sitting around together. On one hand, I felt slightly nervous, that kind of unsure where to look so I just look at everyone in turn and smile and then look at my knees or admiringly at the necklace I just bought- On the other hand, I feel calm, picking up on all the calm energy that is around us, succumbing to the notion that it is perfectly ok to relax here and now.

Either way though, I was quite happy when Isiodoro (16 years) took a flute off the table and began to play; happy for a diversion from the quiet room (most of the older women don´t speak castellano very well so communication is brief and always leaves me wondering), and happy for the opportunity to hear one of the most beautiful sounds, a sweet, joyful burst, quick and peppy yet melodic and flowing.

It totally transformed the room. In a matter of minutes, there was energy and laughter and genuine smiles. My toes we tapping, I could have danced and I was told that actually there is a dance that accompanies this song.

Shortly after Isiodoro began playing the flute, (which is a wooden tube made out of some sort of hollow bamboo plant, cut straight across the top and bottom with seven holes along the top for fingers and a slight hollow carved out at the end where you blow, your lips hardly touching the wood), two younger boys began to play drums, a basic rhythm that serves as background accompaniment. The drums are small, 8″ in diameter and 4″ wide, played with two small sticks, one hit directly after the other.

Together they are beautiful, simple, joyous. Yet beware, Isiodoro is an extremely talented flute player. Neither Chris nor I could even make a note when given the chance… although on another day, after 20 minutes of practice, Chris did manage to somewhat play a scale!


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