Visit almost any village or town in Central or South America, and you may experience daily fiestas celebrating birthdays, national holidays or Christian holy days. These fiestas, or parties, are as much a part of the cultural fabric as hot dogs and fireworks on our Fourth of July.
In Peru, some 3,000 festivals celebrating the lives of saints, are syncretic constructions blending Christian and indigenous traditions originating with the colonization of Peru by Spain in the 16th century.
La Patronal, a vibrant brass band from Peru, is rooted in the tradition of fiestas populares, or town fairs, found throughout rural communities in Latin America. The 10-piece band of eight musicians (two saxophones, two trumpets, a trombone, Sousaphone, congas and drums) and two dancers, presents the culture through a combination of songs, stories, masks and dance.
On March 29, La Patronal brings its colorful cultural celebration to the ArtsCenter in Carrboro.
On the road from Orlando to Miami, band leader Cesar Fe spoke through an interpreter with The News & Observer about the band’s music, traditions and the first week of its month-long tour of the United States.
Q: Festivals populares are generally found in rural communities throughout Latin America, yet your group is based in the Peruvian capitol of Lima.
A: The group was created to validate or give some credit and power to the traditional music and folklore of Peru. So it was created to bring the town parties to the cities and every part of Peru.
Q: What is the musical background of your band members?
A: Most of them have a traditional upbringing with music. It was like a family tradition. But most of them also went through some kind of formal musical education. So it’s kind of a mixture of those. Most have played music since they were kids.
Q: Your audiences consist of all age groups, including millennials who prefer popular music over traditional folk songs. Does the band combine the music of fiestas populares with contemporary musical ideas that appeal to modern audiences?
A: For the group it’s very natural and organic because in traditional parties they usually play pop songs, or music people are listening to right now. They usually play what people request. So the traditional rhythms and music mix organically.
Q: Peru is a country of immense cultural and environmental diversity, from the Pacific Coast through and Andes and the Amazon rainforest. Does La Patronal present cultural traditions from all those regions?
A: The objective of La Patronal is to represent the regions of Peru. You can actually see that in the traditional parties, or fiestas. They usually have rhythms and influences from all of these parts. The music is the base. On top of that you have the food, hats, [singing styles] – different parts of the culture. That’s why the fiestas populares also have dancers so you can see dances from different regions.
Q: How many performances do you have scheduled on the tour?
A: Between 25 and 30. We are also doing residencies and community engagement with public schools and a juvenile detention center. And we do informational workshops.
Q: How have you been received on this tour by American audiences who may be experiencing the traditions of fiesta populares for the first time?
A: We didn’t know what to expect when we came to the United States. What we have received this first week of the tour has been awesome. The audiences have been giving us so much back, too, and welcoming us. It’s been kind of like a dream.
Who: La Patronal
When: March 29, 8 p.m.
Where: The ArtsCenter, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro
Info: 919-929-2787 or artscenterlive.org/