rivera1Here is something I’ve been swooning over lately – the sound of early Bolivian music.

Felipe V. Rivera was born in 1896 in Suipacha, Bolivia, and was a revered performer of Bolivian folkloric music, recording for the Victor and Odeon company in Argentina throughout the 1930s and 1940s, until his death in 1946. He moved from Bolivia to La Quiaca, just over the Bolivian border in the Jujuy province, in 1929, and had his first session with Victor in 1931. He was self-taught, and played guitar, charango (the 10-string, small guitar-like instrument of the Andes, usually made with the back of an armadillo as the shell), and the quena flute. According to the only biography that seems to exist on Rivera, he and his group were apparently met with dismissiveness by the Victor label in ’31, as the label was convinced that music of the Andean Indians wouldn’t sell. Rivera prevailed somehow, and Victor recorded two of his performances, which sold plentifully in August of 1932. Normally this would be followed by subsequent sessions, but Rivera did not record again until the “Guerra del Chaco,” the war between Bolivia and Paraguay, ended in 1935. Rivera went back to Buenos Aires to record in 1936, 1938, and 1942.

Victor began recording in La Paz as early as 1917, but Rivera’s are among the earliest I’ve come across, myself. They are also completely unavailable, as far as I can tell. Too bad – as the sound of the charango can transport a listener. The title of this track “Caminito a Yavi,” no doubt refers to the historic village Camino a Yavi (or, simply, Yavi) in Argentina, about 16 kilometers from La Quiaca. The town, founded in 1667 on a stark plateau, is just a few streets, surrounded by hills and desert plains.

As we begin the third year of Excavated Shellac, very soon we’ll have at least one important announcement, as well as several tracks from countries and regions we haven’t yet been to…

Felipe V. Rivera y su Orquesta Típica Boliviana, with Maria F. Sivila and Faustino J. Ventura – Caminito a Yavi

Technical Notes
Label: Victor (Argentina)
Issue Number: 37988-A
Matrix Number: (same)

Much information for this post gleaned from Remo Leaño’s fine site on Rivera, located here.

mendez.jpgBetter late than never. I had to leave town for a short trip, then my file hosting site was acting up last night. But here we are, once again…

Bolivia had its own record label in the mid-20th century called Mendez, pressed in La Paz. Although the examples I’ve come across were pressed poorly – with heavy, bumpy shellac and often in irregular sizes (9 3/4″ as opposed to the standard 10″, for instance) – they were purely a Bolivian product and that counts for a lot. There seems to have been some wonderful regional music captured on Mendez, although I know next to nothing about the extent of their output or how long they existed before being bought up by a larger entity (I do know that they pressed labels in turquoise, gold, and dark blue, as seen here).

The mysterious ensemble known as “31 de Octubre” consisted of a couple of guitar players, at least one probably playing the charango, and a soloist on the quena, or the traditional Andean flute. This track is labeled as a carnaval (the flip side is listed as a danza indigena), also known as a carnavalito, a particular musical style of Bolivia. It is a song from the Eastern part of the country, interestingly, not the Andean side. The title, Milongueros, refers to Milongas (or Milonga), the Argentine style of music, and playing. It’s a nice tune – short and sweet!

(Special thanks to Carol Blenda for help and information!)

31 de Octubre – Milongueros

Technical Notes
Label: Mendez
Issue Number: 203
Matrix Number: 53-L15

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