Sundays in Santiago’s hip Barrio Yungay have a new institution – free workshops for cajón peruano, an instrument that has its origins among the slave communities of 14th century Peru.
Held in the open air of the Yungay plaza, the drummers get together at around 4 pm to jam, spread the word on the cajón, revive traditional Latin American music and provide a space for Santiaguinos from all walks of life to get together and have fun.
“I knew of a lot of houses where the cajón was being used like a piece of furniture,” group founder Caruso Moraga told La Tercera of the box-shaped drum. “We had to get them out into the street, get them together and give a Caribbean flavor to Santiago.”
Moraga is part of the group’s core of talented musicians; he is a member the popular Flor de Orquesta, a band of self-described “romantics” that are helping to reinvigorate traditional styles of music – like bolero, cumbia and chachachá – and bring them to a new, younger audience.
The drummer continues his role of music missionary in his weekly sessions in Yungay, where he teaches rhythms like the zamacueca – a style from 16th century Peru and mother of many of the continent’s musical genres; the chacarera – a rural version of tango from Argentina; and the joropo – a waltz-like music from Venezuela.
The Yungay cajón group also boasts Joe Vasconcellos, a local music legend who mixes music from around the continent, from Latino rock to Chile’s traditional cueca, and has performed at festivals around the country, including the Festival Viña del Mar.
But despite the musical pedigree of its founders, the group is open to everyone, young and old, rich and poor, musically talented or not.
“I’ve connected with a heterogeneous Santiago. From people who work for the minimum wage to professionals,” Enrique Feldman a 49-year-old engineer from the chic Providencia neighborhood, told La Tercera.
And though the group is now being invited to perform at shows around the city, it continues to be a non-profit, community-oriented project.
“We are a family. If someone comes by car, they pick up those that walk and we all bring some food to share among ourselves,” said Moraga. “We do this only for the love of music and to have a good time.”
To reach the plaza in Barrio Yungay, take the metro to the Cumming station, and walk north along Avenida Ricardo Cumming for two blocks. Turn left and head east along Santo Domingo; the plaza sits at the corner of Santo Domingo and Sotomayor. For more information, see the group’s Facebook site.