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Peruvian dreams. How to make music for love not money





David Denny: 'with our faithful Ericka La Roja at Uchos where the new bridge across the Marañon was being constructed. You can't see it but we are about 1,000m below where road enters the canyon'


Every now and then, the electronic postbag at Salut! Live yields something special. This is an example. It's from David Denny, a response all the way from Trujillo (the city of everlasting spring') in Perú, to a piece here about the dramatic effect of lockdown on the performing arts. I told David I was minded to promote and if possible expand his contribution to the status of self-contained article and this is the result of our exchanges.

I did not know this when I wrote to him but there is indeed a connection with Sandy Denny. 'I do have the same surname as a beloved departed singer,' he said. 'We are cousins. I am a bit older than she would be, and I had my guitar first... hare and tortoise.' That said, it is not a connection he seeks to exploit.

Here is what David wrote on a subject close to his heart, followed by a fascinating playlist of YouTube clips from which I have chosen to highlight one delightful piece, Monica Pantoja's exuberant and infectious El Funeral de Rio (despite the sombre title, this is a protest song about the ruination of La Paz's river Choqueyapu)  ...


I moved to South America a few years ago and before that had quite a decent "education" in latin, specifically Andean, folk music, even knocking out a few examples in the generic dance rhythms. When I got here I hung up my guitar - they learn in primary school here (full parade bands), and often go further [with] conservatories not just in the capital, but also major cities.

Disclaimer: full credit is paid by people here to the originators of the folklore (collector) movement, both in Britain and the USA.

Before leaving, a good friend advised me: to be a musician in my world, you will earn little cash but will receive much love.

And this is true, because over here music has a very different social purpose. The nearest I can get is to say it functions as a refreshment of Identity, and I think that Identity is a very problematic term in the countries of the North Atlantic and Western Europe.

Who goes to a concert in, for example, England, usually goes because they are a fan of the group or singer.

Who goes to a concert in any Latino country goes there as a celebration of Who We Are. At a concert of a famous Bolivian group in London two Bolivians in the audience holding a banner overhead made sure me in the middle was also helping hold it up. And so on.


When I use the term identity I am not going down the road you may imagine. Instead, think of all the "individualisation" that has taken place in the last five decades or so in our own kingdom, all those little things that disintegrated community, family, workplace, all those dreams of getting rich by dropping off useless appendices. It's breaking my heart to be honest.

Maybe there is a hint in this that all is not lost... but if possible you may want to learn from others.

David Denny on himself: the most important thing about me that people should know is that my grandfather, David Skinner Denny, was a pioneer Socialist politician whose career in the City of Glasgow, around the turn of the previous century:
  • - began as a speaker in small halls in the West of Scotland explaining to the public the nature of socialism
  • - was marked by his election as one of the first three ever Labour local councillors in Scotland
  • - culminated in his position as Convenor of the Electricity Committee and his appointment as Baillie of the City
    The most relevant thing about me for most people who read this is that my late cousin, Sandy,  was a talented singer and songwriter and, while we watched her career with love and interest, none of us attempted to trade on her fame and fortune.
  • I'm half Scots and sometimes, when I know the company, I tell my Latino friends that I too am mestizo.
    I live in Peru as a national. I've been here for eight years with my wife, whose family are here.
    My interests are music and exploration.
    As a musician I am in awe of those here and do not flog my Beatles roots because I know any seven-year-old can walk all over me before even getting the tuner out.
    As an explorer I'm addicted to the vistas you can only see by getting off the tarmac and winding your dusty way up a few thousand vertical metres. Plus, the folks are great.
    As long as you smile, joke, and generally keep the mood positive, you will be treated like a long-lost pet.
    One wish I have is to somehow convince the countrymen of the land of my birth that there is another way of life.
    Go for best not perfect because the price of perfect is unhappy. Happy is better.
    Now for David's YouTube selection. You could do worse than listen to the Monica Pantoja clip featured above and just let it run. He says: '[Maybe] this is too different for English ears, folklore movement thriving or not. But it's a starting point. You can "waste" a few minutes of your time and if anything stirs the soup maybe I've got something to say ... a good idea, though, to give it a complete listen, maybe set aside half an hour. Comments, likes, dislikes, welcome. Even if you hit only the first 30 seconds ...'




    'Big day, completed the nice bit from Sinsicap to La Cuesta by the appx 1800m descent of 35 ugly corners to the square at peaceful La Cuesta'


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