In 1977 Celso Garrido-Lecca composed one of the most representative pieces of the Peruvian Nueva Canción movement, the Cantata Popular Kuntur Wachana, a Quechua title that means “Where the Condors are Born,” a work for folk instruments, male voices and a narrator, with texts by the filmmaker Federico García Hurtado, based on oral testimonies of the peasant leader Saturnino Huillca. This cantata narrates the story of the first syndicate of peasants organized in the Peruvian district of Cusco and exalts the figure of its main leader, Mariano Quispe. For the composition of this work, Garrido-Lecca drew from music he had previously composed for the national film of the same name, produced by García Hurtado himself. This cantata was premiered by the Popular Song Workshop of the Lima National Conservatory in 1977, conducted by Celso Garrido-Lecca. It was widely performed throughout Peru, with the simultaneous projection of a slide-show, in the multiple tours all over the country undertaken by the students of the Popular Song Workshop.

Following the example of the Chilean composer Luis Advis, creator of the musical genre known as “Cantata Popular”, Garrido-Lecca used the standard instrumentation of guitar, charango, quena, bombo, tiple, male voices, violoncello and double bass. He also innovated by adding percussion accessories (rattles) and other wind instruments of the Andes such as sikus, tarkas and pututo. This cantata required eight vocalists: a bass soloist, three tenors, two baritones, and two basses. In contrast to Advis’s works, the violoncello and the double bass in Kuntur Wachana are more active, playing solo melodies and also providing some effects that contribute to the drama.

In Garrido-Lecca’s cantata one observes the use of pentatonic melodies, the alternation of slow and fast sections, the succession of contrasting binary-ternary folk rhythms, contrapuntal melodies in the wind instruments, a homophonic and polyphonic treatment of the voices, and unusual harmonic sequences, among other innovative resources. After the first narration the male chorus introduces the main musical theme in unison, a melody that will be heard several times throughout the piece with different tempos, ornamentation, and timbres. A bass soloist, who personifies Mariano Quispe, has a solo aria, written in the ternary rhythm of a baguala, but modified by Garrido-Lecca with the addition of an extra beat in each measure.

An analogical recording of Garrido-Lecca’s Cantata Popular Kuntur Wachana was produced in the late 1970s in Peru, performed by the musical group Vientos del Pueblo, the bass soloist Ricardo Eyzaguirre, and Walter Zambrano as narrator. A new digital recording was produced between April and September 2011 with the sponsorship of the Research Department of the Catholic University of Valparaiso-Chile.

Dr. Nelson Niño Vásquez
October 2011