Sukay, the trio that specializes in ancient music from the
Andes Mountains, will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Adler Theater, Davenport. The
Visiting Artists are Eddy Navia and Alcides Mejia from bolivia and Quentin Howard from
Brooklyn, New York. Sukay, the name of the group, is a Quechua word meaning to open the
earth and make it ready for planting. The musicians are based in San Francisco. The men in
the ensemble belonged to Savia Andina, the most famous musical group of its kind in their
native country; and they have made 20 albums. The instruments they play are the charango,
a tiny guitar made with an armadillo shell; sikus, the whole family of pan pipes; the
kena, a notched flute; and the bombo, a large drum made from llama skin.
One of the
visiting groups performances was at Davenports Perry Elementary School, where
they had the students clapping and swaying. Grade schoolers studying about the rain forest
were fascinated with anything South American and got into the act immediately.
The pipes are played as one would blow on a bottle, producing a haunting, breathy
sound. Mr. Navia plays an instrument that may be the only one of its kinda
double-necked guitar that incorporates the tiny charango in the body of a regular guitar.
The rhythm was blood stirring, and the general effect was high altitude passion. Ms.
Howard says Eddy Navia is "One of the best composers of this music. In Bolivia, Peru
and Ecuador, the ancient traditions have been kept alive by people in remote a regions.
Young composers are bringing back the ancient traditions in new music." Our closest
knowledge of what this is like is Paul Simons "El Condor Pasa," a hit of
the 1970s, which Sukay played with great eloquence.
They demonstrated to the students how they played the pan pipes of different sizes, and
Ms. Howard said, "In old times, the halves of the pipes were separated. You gave a
half to a friend, and it took two of you to play a scale." This music is hypnotically
repetitive, but Mr. Navia played a mixture of such a composition and Mozart. The effect
was wonderful. The small charango had a terrific sound, throbbing and singing as his hand
moved in a blur. They performed a song titled "From Far Away I have Come Here Just to
Love You" and Ms. Howards Yma Sumac singing was up in the stratosphere.
How did they get started? Mr. Navia played electric guitar in a rock group, Mr. Mejia
studied the cello at a conservatory, and Ms. Howard heard the music of the high Andes and
fell in love with it. She got a flute and took it everywhere with her."The best thing
a musician can do," she says, "is to become like an instrument. Be quiet and
empty and let the music play through you."
This is a most enjoyable exotic group. Hear them if you can.