Bolivian Christmas carol tradition

Sady Rojas reports for Pagina Siete:


The Bullangueros of Child Jesus sing the carol tradition

Children under 8 years are joined together in a group that plays old Christmas songs. Under the baton of Cavour, they give solidarity concerts.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.07.17 AM

With guitars, charango and chullu chullus [built from flattened soda caps, a bunch of them have its centers perforated and are joined with a thin metal wire and held in the hand to make it rattle], a children’s choir sings excited “Huachi torito”. They are the Bullangueros [bustlers] of the Child Jesus. They appear only at Christmas time, and under the direction of Maestro Ernesto Cavour, they recover traditional carols.

“When I was a kid, we danced and sang. We looked after cans of butter or a bedpan to hit and make sounds. All went out to the streets to play in the neighborhood. That joy, dancing and praising God is what has been lost as of today,” says the director of theBullanguero of Child Jesus and master of the charango [like a small guitar with a sound like a mandolin], Ernesto Cavour.

Himself, a Bolivian composer of Christmas songs, defines Carols as music of faith. “The Christmas Carol is a song of praise and faith. It’s the way people pays honor, to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus”.

Despite having over 40 years since its founding by the group Los Jairas, the current group of Bullangueros of Child Jesus, is composed of children under eight years. “We work with some friends of the musical field, but also get children to learn about the tradition, I think that’s the most important part of our work. Teach the younger about the true Bolivian Christmas and not only what brings the globalized world” says maestro Cavour.

The Bolivian Christmas was very different from what we now live. As members of this group, our habits have changed over the years to almost completely erase the rest of the Bolivian spirit on this holiday. “Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus. It is a time of love and solidarity that is shared with everyone. Today we have lost this to consumerism, tame spending,” says the musician responsible for wind instruments in Bullangueros , Neco Solares.

Every evening until the Christmas season, children and members of the group practice and learn the Bolivian carols. “We started November 15 with rehearsals to make presentations for Christmas. We invite children to join the group to learn more of the culture and traditions that exist in Bolivia,” says Solares.

According to the musician, the constant search for the Bullangueros is to recover the family atmosphere and the joy they had carols and faith through national tradition. The “Child manuelito”, “Perka Patitas” and “Bring hot buñuelitos” are some of the songs that form the repertoire of this folk group.

To continue with the habit, the musicians of Bullangueros teach each child to play an instrument and playing traditional carols. Small children since the age of five years begin life in music with great teachers. “There are some children who do not yet have good rhythm. So we make a personalized teaching to each of them. Teach the beat and rhythm of each song,” says Solares.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.06.59 AMAlong the teacher Cavour, the group visits orphanages, nursing and different theaters to spread their music and the Christmas tradition. “Sometimes we’ll even teach the old folks homes. They always have a lot of excitement to learn more about the music, but many do not have good memories and forget. That is why it takes longer when they are older because they forget and have to repeat” affirms.

The little time and activities do not allow him to continue teaching continuously. “I always have activities that keep me away from teaching. Just for Christmas, I teach children in our culture, we accept children who come” he says.

Each child learning is a future musician that will bring this tradition, explained Cavour. “Children are very smart. I teach children to improve then they go through their own efforts and can pass that knowledge,” he says.

Cavour: Christmas was happier before

Christmas, despite not being a Bolivian tradition in its entirety, is celebrated in a particular way in the country. The customs were changing every year up to the present.

“This party arrives in Bolivia by the Spanish Juan Araujo, as there is a written document, in the city of Sucre. From there, the festival has evolved to take a Bolivian air,” said Neco Solares, a member of the Bullangueros Child Jesus of the  Museum of Musical Instruments. This Bolivian “taste” was formed by chuntunqui, a very traditional custom in the country.

“I remember once was a custom to celebrate the birth with music from all the people, together. Even competitions were held between neighborhoods of musical groups,” recalled the master of the charango, Ernesto Cavour. The coexistence, hot chocolate, dancing and faith were the center of celebration of yesteryear, said the charango player.

The instruments were also special. The chullu chullu, percussion instrument made of top crowns, was something the children built. “We flattened the caps to arm our instrument. Some went to the rail station but did not go so well. I had my own instrument that was called The Invader, because it was made of pure Coca Cola and Pepsi,” said Cavour.

Today, some folk groups and national clubs try to recover these customs. The villages, especially in Chuquisaca, maintain this practice as a tourist attraction for domestic travelers who want to revive the tradition.

Bolivian Christmas

Customs. In communities, continues the tradition of visiting homes and community dance in the streets.

Music. Despite the various dances of praise to God, the chuntunquis are preferred for Christmas.

Tourism. Communities like Villa Serrano or Sopachuy receive large numbers of visitors to the traditional Christmas celebration that is still in force in these localities.

It is sad to see that our “villancicos” are fading away,so it is SO refreshing to see these type of artist that use their own time to teach our children, for that I welcome ALL OF THEM to The Hall of Bolivian Fame!


Published by Bolivian Thoughts

Senior managerial experience on sustainable development projects.

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