During the week of October 21-26 the students and faculty of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) at NYU, as well as the broader NYU community had the privilege to meet renowned Andean musician, Manuelcha Prado.
Born in Puquio in the department of Ayacucho, Peru, Manuelcha Prado is widely heralded as one of the foremost singers, songwriters, and composers of Andean music. His repertoire comes from a vast Andean cultural heritage preserved by a traditional of oral memory, Quechua agricultural rituals, dances, celebratory ceremonies, funeral songs, carnivals and amusement waynos that express the feeling of a living culture that resists. It was an honor to have him with us.
Manuelcha made a special effort to spend time with NYU students currently studying Quechua. He visited both the Basic and Intermediate Quechua classes taught by CLACS Professor Odi Gonzales.
The students in the Quechua classes prepared questions for Manuelcha about his life and music and recorded an interview with him for the Rimasun podcast series. Manuelcha spoke of the importance of preserving and promoting Quechua, told stories of learning Quechua from his grandmother and teaching it to his children, and of course he played his guitar and sang with the students as well.
From the classroom, Manuelcha’s charm spread to community events held at NYU. This special Quechua Night brought together Manuelcha’s NYC fans, loyal Ayacuchanos, Quechua learners and even a few dancers in a lively night of music, conversation, and celebration. As Manuelcha paced the halls outside the event, tuning his guitar, people from the community got to know one another’s name and residence – in Quechua! With the guitar finally tuned and Quechua on the tongue, Manuelcha led a sing-along of his popular song Alverja Saruy. Soon this chorus for Manuelcha Prado learned firsthand what it means to be enthralled by the Saqra of the Guitar as the sing-along gave way to a dance that ended the night.
Later in the week, Manuelcha joined a conversation event with Odi Gonzales and Freddy Roncalla. Odi, a Quechua professor and poet, shared comments about Andean music and the indigenous movement. Freddy Roncalla, a Quechua writer and artisan, talked about Manuelcha’s musical career and how he courageously broke with tradition. Traditionalists at the time complained, but it opened the door for the next generation of musicians in Peru who are playing Andean-influenced music today. Manuelcha then took the stage. Known as the saqra of the guitar, Manuelcha talked about his inspirations, like his Quechua grandmother, the natural world, the cycles of agriculture, and the traditional fiestas from his birthplace in Puquio. He discussed collaborating with rock and other kinds of musicians, which attracted a new generation of young listeners who had previously rejected Andean music. And he talked about returning to his roots in recent years, playing traditional Andean music about La Pachamama (Mother Earth). As a Quechua activist, Manuelcha spoke about Quechua as a language of poetry and philosophy, and the importance of teaching Quechua in creative ways. He then picked up his guitar, played his beautiful music and responded to thoughtful questions from the audience.
On the night before his return to Peru, Manuelcha performed a free concert hosted by CLACS open to the NYU and the public. The auditorium was filled over capacity, as Manuelcha serenaded an audience of one hundred and thirty people in Spanish and Quechua. Organized by their professor Odi Gonzales, Quechua students from both levels had been practicing all week and surprised everyone by accompanying Manuelcha for his song Expresio Puquio. For Manuelcha’s last song the crowd was on their feet dancing around the auditorium! Spirits stayed high late into the night as Manuelcha mingled with the crowd after the show.
The NYU Quechua Program is delighted to have had the chance to host Manuelcha Prado in his recent trip to New York City. Students, faculty, and community members alike shared in the delight having such an esteemed guest present during classes and public events. We are incredibly grateful to el Gran Maestro for his time and energy, and look forward to the next time our paths may cross. Please stay tuned for multiple podcasts with Manuelcha in the Rimsun quechua podcast program!
Posted by the NYU Quechua Outreach Committee