New Inca Son brings the Andes to FSU

(From left to right: Rene Quisbert, Nardo Alvarez, Omar Clavijo, and Santos Alva. Photo Courtesy of Marianne Ruggiero.)

FSU hosted the traditional Andean ensemble band, New Inca Son, as part of the ongoing Midday performance series on Monday in the Forum.

The members are all natives of Peru and Bolivia but have called New England home for many years. Their mission is to bring the music of the Andes here in its unaltered state, according to lead singer and wind instrumentalist, Omar Clavijo.

New Inca Son is a group dedicated to the preservation of indigenous Andean music and the education of non-indigenous people on the culture and history of its origins.

“We don’t write and read our music. We play by ear, and often with our hearts – we are extending those to you,” Clavijo said.

The band utilizes a wide range of traditional Peruvian wind instruments which Clavijo plays in addition to the Spanish guitar performed by Santos Alva, the native Andean “charango” performed by Rene Quisbert and native drums by percussionist Nardo Alvarez.

This mixture of instruments, in addition to the use of chimes for sections of certain songs, is the eclectic form known as “Andino” music which is often mistaken for Peruvian music, according to Clavijo.

“The difference [in regional variations] is in the rhythm – Andino music is native to many countries in South America, including Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina,” he said.

Originally, Andino music made use of only the wind instruments and the drums, but with the arrival of the Spanish, the guitar was adopted and native variations were invented using armadillo shells, Clavijo said.

The charango the youngest band member, Quisbert, plays is just such an instrument – although modern versions forego the use of armadillo shells Clavijo insisted to the bemused audience.

The interplay between the high, bright notes of the charango and the rich, dull notes of Alva’s Spanish guitar creates a deftly interwoven melody upon which Clavijo’s many wind instruments can dive under and rise above – like wind over an Andean mountain range.

The sound of New Inca Son is overall very bright and twinkly – there is a heavy and consistent emphasis on clappable drumbeats, the use of chimes and repeating guitar riffs that all build off a steady and booming drum pattern.

These booming drums are known as “bombo,” the name itself an onomatopoeia referring to the sound they make when struck, Clavijo said.

As for the wind instruments, they range in size and sound from the deep, distant howling of the massive toyo, to the twangy chunkiness of the smaller samponia.

Not all Andino music is bright and happy. New Inca Son made a note of incorporating a more somber song they had written as an ode to the victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Here, the deep, ancient power of the toyo is really utilized to full effect.

When all four instruments are combined, the melody the band creates is truly unique – a musical medley indicative of the rich culture of the Andes.

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