Sunday afternoons are neither lazy nor tranquil in Plaza Yungay. Approaching the square any time after three o'clock, your ears will be filled with Peruvian, Brazilian and Afro-Latino rhythms hammered out by the group Cajones de Yungay.
Cajoneros (photo by Marianne Fuentealba)
The cajón, a box-shaped percussion instrument that you sit on and beat with your hands, originated in coastal Peru in the early 19th Century. With strong links to African Culture in the Americas, this instrument is now an integral part of Afro-Latino music. It was later introduced to musical forms such as Flamenco and Jazz and has increased in popularity ever since.
On the beat (photo by Marianne Fuentealba)
It is for the richness of the cajón's history as well as it's sound that Caruso Moraga formed Cajones de Yungay. The cajón, he explains on the group's blog, is one of the few instruments that doubles up as the player's seat. This allows the rhythm to not only be played but also physically felt by the artist. It was after a trip to Peru in 2005 that Moraga decided to form the group, having been inspired by the cajoneros there.
The aim of the project is to bring musicians and amateurs together in a cultural celebration of the Peruvian cajón in Chile, Latin America and the rest of the world. They have had several television appearances and perform in various places around the city (the most recent show being the Biblioteca de Santiago a few weeks ago). No previous experience is required to join Cajones de Yungay, although it is advisable to bring your own instrument, as there are a limited number of spare drums.
Jamming (photo by Marianne Fuentealba)
Santiago is a city with a pulse, played with everything from African Djembe to tambourines. Percussion can be heard everywhere you go. The universality of rhythm (whether you got it or you don't) makes a drum far more accessible as a musical instrument than, for example, a piano - although how portable an instrument is often has a certain amount of influence too. Even if you can't hold a beat, you can at least succeed in hitting a drum and creating a sound. So, getting your head round double paradiddles makes you feel like your hands are no longer connected to the rest of your body for all the control you have over them. Complicated rhythms are not for everyone. As Ringo Starr demonstrated- all you need is a back-beat (and love, obviously).
This universality makes percussion intrinsically social in nature. A lone drummer is a sad sight indeed. It is this nature that increases the popularity of groups like Cajones de Yungay and attracts audiences to listen. There is a magic in hearing thirty different people playing the same rhythm, watching their hands move in unison and allowing the size of the noise to engulf you for a moment. The energy of Cajones de Yungay, as they are seated in a circle, on their boxes, is all the richer for their concentration and connectedness.
Cajones de Yungay meet every Sunday from three o'clock in Plaza Yungay. The group is currently preparing for a live performance in the plaza on the 16th of December and so is not currently open to new members. However, keep an eye on the Facebook page (below) for updates on future workshops and information on joining the group.
For more information visit http://www.facebook.com/cajonesde.yungay