Selva Soundtrack

3 Jun

Rock stars: us with the lead singer and guitarist of Tarapoto’s Sonido 2000

Wedding Crashers

A few weeks ago, on a weekend trip to the nearby lakeside town of Sauce with fellow Technoserve consultants Sarah, Rachelle, and Gaby, we had what passes for here as a major celebrity encounter. Waiting for the same ferry as us to cross the Rio Huallaga was the tour mini-bus of Sonido 2000, Tarapoto’s homegrown most popular band, whose modern style of cumbia is played throughout the region.  Their lead singer, Cheryl Trigozo, happens to be my roommate Dan’s fantasy woman, and it was to his great chagrin later that he wasn’t with us.

Cheryl (wearing a hat in the photo above) was intrigued to meet Americans, especially ones like me who knew a number of the group’s songs and had seen them in concert before.  I tried to facilitate a storybook romance by asking Cheryl to speak to “her biggest American fan”, Dan, via my phone — but was thwarted by the lack of cell signal in the area.  Oh well…  During our brief chat the group let us know that they were playing a private concert for a wedding that afternoon at Laguna Azul.

Children at the wedding flocked to Sarah and her Kindle

We split up from Sonido 2000 after the river crossing but, having no other plans, soon resolved to check out this fancy wedding. Although the site had been closed off for the private party, no one seemed to question the presence of us four foreigners as we arrived. Guests were dressed in nice clothing and sitting at picnic tables lakeside, enjoying the warm, pleasant day… and the sight of four foreigners arriving and peeling off their clothes to take a dip in the lake somehow didn’t draw a rebuke. Later as we sunbathed on the dock, listening to Sonido 2000 reel off crowd favorites like “Mi Vida No Vale Nada” and “Bajo La Lluvia” (these songs, as many here do, feature melancholy lyrics set to an upbeat, funky tempo), Sarah and her Kindle drew quite a crowd of children to whom she read from Twilight.  It was quite a memorable way to cross “crash a wedding” off our Perú bucket lists.

Sounds of the Selva

Among the nightlife or weekend activities I enjoy here are the ample opportunities to listen to live music, with frequent performances from the aforementioned Sonido 2000, as well as other groups — often long-running family-and-friends acts — such as Internacional Yurimaguas, Sensual Karicia, Corazon Serrano, and others.  They make their own songs, cover standards, and borrow each other’s songs.  These groups are known regionwide but their music is spread entirely by free mp3 file-sharing via downloads, USB drives, and CDs.  I don’t believe any of them have any expectation of making money off of the sale of singles or albums, and hence these groups tour relentlessly throughout the region supporting themselves via live gigs.

Bareto, on the other hand, is a group from Lima whose jungle-inflected rock music and updates of old-school cumbia standards are popular throughout Peru.  Their December concert at the “Perú Mucho Gusto” national festival in Tarapoto was one of my favorite experiences.  During that show, which had the whole crowd energized and dancing, my Canadian friend Vero and I were featured multiple times on the Jumbotron dancing like goofy ex-pats amidst an energetic, pumped-up crowd.   I lost some great photos and video of this day when my laptop was stolen, but YouTube carries some of Bareto’s notable hits including “No Juegues con el Diablo”, “Ya Se Ha Muerto Mi Abuelo”, “Cariñito”, and “Mujer Hilandera”.

There is a huge variety of music popular here.  Whether in the discotecas or in the colectivo taxis, you can hear cumbia, salsa, Peruvian artists (the collaboration of Pelo D’Ambrosio y Pata Amarilla is responsible for the immensely popular “Lejos de Ti”, not to mention the original “Que Paso” which Sonido 2000 covers in the embedded video above), American Top 40 pop (on at least a 6 month delay from the homeland, as songs like Rihanna’s “We Found Love” and LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” are only recently reaching here) and ’80s staples, rock en español classics (Soda Stereo, Maná, Fabulosos Cadillacs), and current Latin pop from abroad.

The latter includes everything from reggaeton (Daddy Yankee, J Alvarez, et al.) to chart-toppers like Mexico’s Chino & Nacho and Puerto Rico’s Tito “El Bambino”, to Brazilian flavors of the month.  Some of these Portuguese-language crooners are shockingly popular — Don Omar’s “Danza Kuduru” (350 million YouTube views) was big in the States last year thanks to the latest The Fast & The Furious movie, but here in January I would hear Michel Telo’s “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” (also 350 million+ views, but largely unknown back home) no less than 20 times a day throughout town.  The mania went so far as to spawn regional and national dance competitions dedicated to this one song.

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3 Responses to “Selva Soundtrack”

  1. Nj June 4, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Elusive signs of life in the jungle.
    Did you use your American swagger (read: dollars) to pick up ladies at la boda?
    TSA at LGA told me Owen Wilson is shorter than you/we think.

  2. véro June 5, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    Hey! I think I dance pretty good for an expat…;)

    • Jay June 5, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

      Hahaha, true — ex-pat or not, you dance very well! I think I supplied enough goofiness for two 🙂

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