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    Land of winds > Performers > Composers and performers | Issue 13 (Jan.-Feb.2013)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Melodies sellers


Melodies sellers

Being as it is the fruit of community and popular expression, the music performed by sikuri bands usually do not have authorship. There is certainly someone who first created this or that melody but their name has not always been preserved. It has been quite recently that the gradual introduction of business-related models (which put an emphasis on the question of authorship) in the sikuri universe has worsen the controversy on the matter. Generally speaking, the sikuris (siku players) consider the music they play as being part of a community tradition. They give due recognition to the authors when they are known, but do not bother too much about that.

In the old times, there was the tradition of the "melodies sellers", composers who, for a modest price, sold tunes for different groups of instruments. Their names have been lost in the mists of time, but the memory of their doings has not yet died away. Bolivian master Ernesto Cavour Aramayo rescued these characters in his fundamental work "Instrumentos musicales de Bolivia" (p. 45), from which has been extracted the following excerpt:

"Some elders who live in the province of Nor Chichas (Potosí) tell that in the old times the calcheños [inhabitants of Calcha, province of Nor Chichas] went to Torophalka [Toropalca, province of Nor Chichas] to buy songs. The one in charge of learn the tunes had to be the best musician and also had to have good musical memory since the seller did not have patience because he was a very busy, sought-after person. It is said that buyers paid for the tune with grown food, a means of payment that is now being used for paying other activities. Either the masters in Torophalka or those in Araya had lists of songs for the festivals of Santa Bárbara, San Pedro, Christmas, Carnival, etc., and the calcheños were not the only ones that went to buy these tunes, there were also those living in the higher parts of the province of Linares y Cornelio Saavedra. That tradition was lost in recent years because as it is said the lazy young men carried hidden tape-recorders and did not pay well".


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