LUIS CARLOS SALAZAR
Luis Carlos lives in Pasto, Colombia. In addition to leading his Andean music band, Herencia – which means “heritage”, he makes instruments. Luis Carlos mostly makes wind and string instruments used in Andean traditional music.
INTERVIEW – october 2016
How did you start playing music?
For a large part, because I was curious! When I was at university, I saw bands from other areas. At that time, there was a lot of music conveying messages, and lots of protest songs. The political movement was strong. You could hear that a lot at university. So my friends and I learned to play music so we could join the movement. That’s how I started making music! It is an empirical process, because Andean music is traditional and is based on experience. Lately schools were created, but for the most part it remains ancestral.
What is music to you?
Music has become my purpose in life. I am the person I am, because of music. My family and friends are also involved in music and arts. So it is very central in my life.
How did you start making instruments?
Being a musician, I experienced the lack of instruments in this region. One would be able to find some, but they were not meeting musicians’ expectations. I had always been curious about manual work. So I thought, why not starting learning and working in this field? And I had the asset that I was playing the instruments that I wanted to make. I learned it alone. The instruments-making work is very empirical. There is no school, no teacher to learn from. It has to come from the heart! With time, this became my full-time occupation.
Why do people buy your instruments rather than industrial ones?
I work for local musicians. Especially, there are a number of bands that need high-quality instruments. For example, a musician would come to me and ask, I need a quena [traditional Andean flute] that’s adapted to my size… I personalize the instruments. Therefore they are of better quality and are easier to work with. That way of working is beautiful, because I know the customer is satisfied with his instrument.
Practically, my instruments are of better quality than the industrial ones, firstly because I carefully choose the material. That’s what all instrument makers do: you have to select the best wood for your violin or guitar so that it has a nice sound. If you take my bamboo flutes, you can see there’s no splinter, it is smooth, the size is constant, so that it sounds good. And secondly, the work on the instrument is more precise. I work a lot on their finish.
Why is it important to continue making traditional instruments?
It is essential so that tradition doesn’t die. Tradition is endangered by the commercial world. Now you can see instruments made of fiberglass or low-quality wood. So the sound is very different. We need to keep the sound of our land. Otherwise it gets very standardized or academic.
How would you describe your band, Herencia?
We were several musicians interested in Latin-American music so we gathered in this band. We play typical music from this region as well as from other parts of the Andes. We aim at making as pure a sound as possible, avoiding modern tools like electronic instruments. We don’t want to make “fusion music”, as it is now called, mixing local rhythms with foreign ones. We rather are a purist band, with an acoustic sound, and we explore a lot in this field.
Here in Pasto there’s a positive trend around this type of music. Concerts are organized at the middle of each year and during that time many musicians gather. Schools were created and as a result now there are quite many bands. It has not always been like this. There used to be a time when a few bands were very successful with Andean music, but rapidly it lost momentum, because commercial music was imposed on people. But, recently, some people realized the importance of saving their heritage, and so traditional music is slowly becoming popular again. There are now more events organized around folkloric music and dance.
What is the future of traditional, indigenous music?
Through music, we are bringing to light the indigenous message about how beautiful nature and ecology are. There is now a movement where children are taught this message. We are thus planting a little seed in them. As part of a carnival, we were invited to come and present Andean music. And this is just the seed-planting part, now this movement is going to grow. I hope this knowledge will reach more places, and thanks God this is already starting to expand.
I feel people are becoming aware about the importance of traditions. Not only in music and arts, but also in their way of life. Saving what’s ours, saving our land… And surely in this process culture has an important role.
Do you have a message for the world?
Be part of this movement to save what belongs to you! Get your heritage back and bring your accomplishments to light! Don’t look back and don’t be afraid. Please support the people who are working to save their culture; support the emerging craftsmen and musicians, not only the commercial artists.
PORTFOLIO – THE INSTRUMENTS WORKSHOP