Yarina: Remembrance Through Music

Ecuadorian music, Incan culture, Mozart, and… the Pink Panther? Only on rare occasions can one find all four in the same program. Then again, it’s not everyday that you listen to the music group “Yarina” perform live. Thanks to the Peabody Museum and funds from the Abbot Academy Association, that day came to fruition on the Phillips Academy campus last weekend. “Yarina,” which means “Remembrance” in Quicha, the native language of the Otavalos, consists of Ecuadorian musicians from the same family. Founded in 1984 by four out of nine brothers and encouraged by their father, the siblings have dedicated themselves to sharing and preserving the ancestral traditions and culture of the indigenous people of the Andes. This work has earned them the honor of being named “Ambassadors for Indigenous Ecuadorian Performers” by the Department of Culture, Quito, Ecuador. “Yarina” draws its inspiration from traditional music of their culture and combines it with contemporary sounds of the modern world, which includes jazz and familiar tunes like the Pink Panther. In their performances, Anita Cachimuel, one of two sisters in the family, graces audiences with her simple yet charming Andean dancing. A highlight of their performance was their remake of Mozart’s “Symphony 40.” Hearing the well-known tune played on their instruments, including ones that echoed bird chirps and rainforest noises, added a different quality to the music that was both unique and enjoyable. The audience was fascinated by the variety of the wonderfully foreign instruments that covered the stage. Instruments included the Samponas, pan pipes tied to each other, Chacchas, shakers made from sheep hooves, and Palo de Lluvia, the infamous rain stick. The musicians demonstrated great skill in their ability to switch from one instrument to the next – a trait that separates them from other groups. The traditional instruments, all made by the hands of the musicians themselves, and the modern instruments like the electric bass guitar and violin, combined to make music that “was both spellbinding and highly original,” said Elizabeth Ryznar ’06. The current leader of the group, Roberto Cachimuel, spoke to the audience, and explained that, “To go beyond borders of traditional music, we like to explore and mix other types of music in order to communicate and connect with the audience, which normally has different cultures in it.” Having traveled and performed extensively throughout Europe and the United States, Cachimuel shared, “We have learned to appreciate people from other cultures. In Ecuador, we welcome all people, but there is still racism and segregation there. In the US, we see that things can be different, that people can relate despite differences.” The group has survived for two generations of the Cachimuel family. Said Cachimuel, “The ones here are younger…we’re looking at how our music is becoming mainstream so that everyone can relate to it. But [the] music business is competitive so we look back to our roots to distinguish ourselves from the others.” “Natives of the Andes [like most cultures of the world] have their own unique style of music and dance,” explained Donny Slater of the Peabody Museum. “Traditional people of the Andes have greatly shaped the modern culture of their region.” He continued, “Unfortunately, many locations in the Americas have lost their native heritage because the indigenous peoples and their cultures were decimated due to disease and oppression. The Andes region is lucky to have retained a strong native population and therefore their culture is still vibrant even today.” Not only was the audience able to enjoy the music and dance of the Andes, but they also heard the Quicha language and learned about issues such as industrialism and deforestation that still plague the Andean region. “We did wish that [the audience] was more relaxed so that people could feel free to stand up and dance,” remarked Slater, “but most of all, we hope that the audience left with appreciation of the Andean culture and new awareness regarding all native groups in the Americas.”