Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Merced Flea market

On any saturday and sunday you could take a stroll on the east side of the Valpo's O'Higgins square facing the old mercedarian San Pedro Nolasco school, there you find one open flea market gathering antiques and old books. From time to time you could get a real discovery......
One interesting find I saw last weekend was an old german Arnold bandoneon, still playing. Of course, these are rare to find for sale anywhere because this strange instrument is the best and most looked after instrument to play tango by bandoneon players. Indeed, the bandoneon is essential to be a orquesta típica (typical tango band)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Garbage Festival-Muelle Baron

For a couple of days we had a beach clean up with an awareness music festival called festival de la basura that set up an open stage at the old muelle Barón. A number of good bands showed at this free stage.. among them... rock bands such as DIFUNTOS CORREA, TAKO (Spain), TRÉBOL, 2X, HIC SUNT LEONES; the folk bands CUMBRES DE CHILE, BRAMADOR, plus a tropical band "El príncipe y los coyotes" .
So before these bands performed during this wekeend in Valpo we were getting this artistic clean up during the day by boys and girls from schools, boys scouts, plus other firemen and navy volunteers who cleaned the beaches surrounding the muelle Barón and washed with the fireman aid some dirty alleys (callejón de los meaos) at the port area as an activity from the Festival de la basura.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Valpo british Postal Service

During most of the XIX century, there was a quite active british postal agency in Valparaiso whose postmarks are looked after by philately aficionados from all over the world as an example of the PREPHILATELIC & PHILATELIC POSTMARK USED IN VALPARAISO 1846-1881
Most pre postal mail via Cape Horn went by way of transshipment at Valparaiso. Companies such as the Pacific Steam Navigation Company had a mailing service set since 1840 with its characteristic P postmark.

Liverpool & Valpo

Perhaps unknown to most people, Valparaiso and Liverpool share a long story of nearly two centuries of people and commerce exchanges. These exchanges started in Chile soon after independence (1818) when British commerce started to set shop in Valpo. The result, at the turn of the XIX century, over half of shipping arriving to Valparaiso (photo above) had a british flag, and many of these ships claimed a home at Liverpool. Much of this commercial story have been told by historians such as Juan Ricardo Couyoumdjian. Nevertheless, another part of this more hidden story is what is provided by anecdotical information from journals such as those by Maria Graham (1822), Charles Darwin (1834-35) and many others as well as those stories told in many letters that made the ports of Liverpool and Valparaiso the main postal office hubs for overseas mailing linking the west coast of South America with Europe up to the II World war.
Valpo still have many scripts left in buildings showing this old link with Liverpool. But in Liverpool itself, it seems there are no architectural testimonies showing this link with Valpo. Notwithstanding, there are other examples such as the old shanties folk songs from the sailing era, as well as a well known restaurant (photo left) at downtown.
This year Liverpool is cultural capital of Europe and it is also celebrating its 800th anniversary. Now, Valparaiso is preparing to be host of the World Cultural Forum 2010 and it should be also the time to invite Liverpool to be our guest city at the next Carnavales culturales de Valparaiso, the largest national cultural venue we have in Chile.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Learning spanish traditions

There are only a few foreign groups in Valparaiso teaching their folk traditions to public outside their own communities. One of them, are the spanish communities... So here we have their poster advertisement at the Estadio español with the cultural programme for 2008 with the andalucians with their flamenco dancing, spanish choirs, asturians and galicians with bagpipes and dancing.

Valparaiso Galician folk pipeband

"Remembranzas Galegas" a banda do Centro Galego de Valparaíso - Viña do Mar (of course is Galician) is one of the two traditional folk pipebands found in Valparaiso. The other one is the Valparaiso asturian pipeband and dancing group of the Centro asturiano de Valparaiso. Both bands are also schools keeping alive the spanish bagpipe folk traditions, its music and dances as they are played by them in Valparaiso. In this galician band, their bagpipe music (muiñeiras, marches, alvoradas, jotas, etc.) is usually played along with some percussion instruments such as a tenor drum, pandeiros (tambourines), a bass bombo, and an unique galician invention, the charrasqueiro. In Chile there are not real gaita (bagpipe) makers so most galician bagpipes here are handmade in Galicia (Spain), whereas all the band percussions are made by some members of the band in their workshops in Valpo. At informal gatherings after rehearsals or for special dates such as St James Day there is another musical strain that this band celebrates mixing the bagpipe sound, percussion, and festive singing along with mandolins, lauds, and other plectrum instruments in what it would be called a tuna or estudiantina musical celebration.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Forum Valparaiso 2010

Following the example given by the first two cultural world forum at Barcelona and Monterrey (Mexico), community citizen organizations at Valparaiso under the umbrella of the Forum Citizen Council are starting the preparations organising themselves for 2010 with the official call to local organisations to be host of the next cultural World Forum Valparaiso 2010. More info on this first call below:
ref: http://www.fundacioforum.org/eng/home.asp
Update: Next meeting at Zócalo, Consejo de la cultura, Plaza Sotomayor, May17th 10:00 hrs.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Harps in Valpo

The harp is a traditional plucked instrument that in Chile dates back to colonial times. Traditionally tuned to G with gut and later nylon strings to play tonadas, cuecas and other folk dances. In Valparaiso it shows up in older houses and according to the few records I have read where it is named it was quite popular up to mid XX century. Above, two examples, from left to right a parlor and a concert folk harp from Anna Hicks' collection.

Parlor folk guitars

Parlor size steel string guitars appeared in Valparaiso after the first world war. Local makers at the time only made classical style instruments. Therefore, the first parlor O size guitars were imported, mostly of american origin (Kay, Harmony, Martin) and some of european makers especially from Holland and Germany (Framus). In the photograph above we have two examples, the one on the left a no name with floating bridge made in Holland, and the one on the right a Harmony parlor guitar.

The banjo era

The banjo era arrived to Valparaiso during and after the Great War (1914). Most instruments were brought earlier from the States (Vega, Harmony, Kay) and later from Europe (Holland, Germany). Earlier instruments were the tenor banjo from the Dixieland era along with a few banjolins. These smaller instruments adquiring soon much popularity with the local protestant pentecostal choirs and churchgoers. Then, a few local makers started to make banjolins for these choirs simplifying the resonator and the rim.
Banjolins are indeed mandolins with a skinny top and those such as the photograph left are of the traditional make with a heavy resonator typical from the Dixieland era. Others such as the one seen at the far right in the photograph above are rather a middle simplified shape close to those found currently in the local market, half of them locally made and the other half generic brands imported from China .
Finally, the 5 string or bluegrass banjo is a rather rare sight but it is found from time to time with no name brands from 1910's onwards with earlier trapdoor resonator (photograph left) or much recently with generic asian brands such as the one seen at the top photograph on the left.

Melodeons et al

Melodeons are bottom accordions traditionally used in folk music. From time to time we find older instruments in town, including many of these accordions and perhaps one of the oddest is the unamed diatonic melodeon shown above with a strange bass key work.... Has anybody seen something like this before?
Thierry Beuzer makes and restores in France bottom diatonic accordions or melodeons. One of the Hohner marine series he sells is the so called three row Valparaiso model in G/C/.

Accordions & Valpo

Valparaiso has a hidden love affaire with the accordion sound. Most of its folk bands have used this sound.... from peruvian waltz, tropical latin music to chilean cuecas...The accordion sound is there most of the time. Most of the earlier accordions arrived first to Valparaiso, and from there to other cities in the country to be sold by local companies such as Kirsinger. The last two accordion makers in the country have lived in this area. Hohner, the main accordion making company in the world has its top notch diatonic bottom melodeon model (photo above) named after the port, and is Valparaiso the only town in South America who has had for over 60 something years an accordion orchestra with the exclusive right to bear this name as Orquesta de acordeones Hohner de Valparaiso...
Most of its members started in this orchestra decades ago, and through its history they have received honours from the city, state and they have accomplished tours through Chile and Europe. The heart of this group is Helga Nessius de Junge, who has been their director for 60 years.. An amazing example of musical life for all who like myself had had the honour to know them playing their wonderful music.