Concert Preview: Inca Son to Open VIVA! & Gala Season

The 2012–2013 VIVA! & Gala season launches on Friday, October 26 with a high-energy, interactive performance by Inca Son (Sound of the Inca). Audience members will have the unique chance to hear and see the traditional music, dance, and attire of an ancient Andean culture renowned for its vibrancy and sophistication. Inca Son’s visit will also help inaugurate the exciting new exhibition Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes. The Wari civilization is considered to have been Peru’s first empire, preceding the famous Inca Empire from which Inca Son derives their inspiration. In addition to their Friday performance, Inca Son will perform on Sunday, October 28 at the museum’s atrium opening celebration, when the free Wari exhibition will also open to the public. In anticipation of their multi-day visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art, we spoke with Inca Son’s manager, Marianne Ruggiero, about the group’s origins and mission. Q: Tell us about the origins of the group, and about the members and where they come from. A: Inca Son began in Harvard Square, the heart of Cambridge, MA, where the band was living. The head of the brand-new band, Cesar Villalobos, chose to settle in Cambridge because of the lure of Harvard University. Cesar grew up in a very poor family where 5 of 13 siblings died in childhood from illnesses related to malnutrition. He excelled in school, but as a child dropped out and went to work at odd jobs to earn money for the family. He had always dreamed of having higher education, becoming a doctor. For him, Harvard University represented an academic dream. Years later, he was invited to give a lecture at Harvard. And when the group celebrated its 20th anniversary, they chose Harvard's famed Sanders Theatre as the location. When the group first started playing in Harvard Square, Andean folk music was new to the area (now there are several such groups in the Boston area). There was always a crowd around these long-haired musicians from the Andes, who played their lively tunes in all kinds of weather. They soon got invited to give concerts (indoors!), in state, then out of state, and eventually in acclaimed theaters and other venues, nationally and internationally. Their recording career started of course with tapes, and then CDs, of which they have recorded 13. Their song "Trip through the Andes Mountains," composed by Cesar, won the Independent Music Award for Best World Traditional Song in 2007. The members of Inca Son include founder/director Cesar Villalobos, who plays the pan flutes, composes, and sings. The guitarist is Santos Alva, who hails from Ascope, Peru, like Cesar. They are childhood friends. The kena (Andean flute) player is Ivan Tito from Potosi, Bolivia. The charango (Andean guitar) player is Rene Quisbert, of La Paz, Bolivia. Q: Inca Son are cultural ambassadors and "bearers of the Inca musical legacy." How do you stay close to these roots and channel this ancient civilization? A: Cesar grew up in a musical family. They were not professional musicians, but there was always singing, dancing, and appreciation for Andean folk music, which is passed down from one generation to another. In this way, the Inca musical legacy has been kept alive. We know that the pan flutes, kenas, and bombos (drums) played by Inca Son were played by their Inca ancestors, and many centuries before, when they were buried with high-ranking officials. Inca Son, in the face of industrialized, digitized societies, strives to preserve an ancient musical tradition through its concerts and educational programs for people of all ages, but most importantly for young people. Q: What is something audiences should look forward to seeing or hearing at the Cleveland performance? A: Inca Son performances are typically high energy. The musicians always draw the audience in by virtue of their vibrant music, dazzling costumes, and warm personalities. The songs are typically called out from the stage and explained to the audience, the dances as well. Our goal is to provide (as a Boston Herald reporter once said) a "banquet for the eyes and ears," an experience that people will enjoy and remember long after the curtain falls. So audiences should look forward to having a great time and even (if they wish) to joining us for a dance on stage during the last song. For more details about Inca Son’s VIVA! & Gala performance at the Cleveland Museum of Art and to purchase tickets, visit our Web site. -- Caroline Smith

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