Issue - October 2009

October 2009


In this fiftieth edition, we present Pinami Open Air Museum, researched by Dylan Rudloff & written by Justin Gouin; Petra Vissers' interview with Pirai Vaca; Justin Gouin tells us about Manuela Gandarillas and Tusoco Viajes; a tribute for Martha Estivariz by Ed Young, finally Luis Fernanado Terrazas tells us about Cochabamba's landscapes through Garcilaso de la Vega's more...

October 2009

Passion is the language of the soul

“Bolivia´s wonder child brings his music back home again. His ability to overwhelm people makes one wonder. What is this man is secret?”

Petra Vissers
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Utrecht - Netherlands

Pending the start of Piraí Vaca´s concert, the theatre is filled with an almost serene atmosphere. A chair, a microphone, and his instrument are all the gifted guitarist needs to bring his music to life. And indeed, he is gifted. He has the kind of confidence only possed by those who know they are blessed with a unique talent. It is not only his flawless technique that moves some in the audience to tears, but also his immense presence on the stage, which can only be described as impressive. As he likes to explain it: ¨what moves people the most is the wonder of life, the wonder of creation that the music expresses¨.

The son of the famous painter and sculptor Lorgio Vaca, Piraí Vaca was born to be an artist. Even his name, which is from the Guaraní dialect, sounds like magic. He is also named after the biggest river of Santa Cruz, the town where he was born and grew up. At the age of ten, Piraí´s father bought him a guitar during one of his trips to Europe and from that moment on the young boy from Santa Cruz was hooked on his instrument. He began his studies at the ´Instituto de Bellas Artes´ in Santa Cruz, but at the age of eighteen he decided he wanted to do nothing more than play the guitar. ¨For me it has always been clear I would live to play the guitar, I never wanted to be or do anything else¨, he says about that decision. At first he went to study in Buenos Aires, but it was at the ´Instituto Superior de Arte´ in Havana that his star began rising. There he studied under the guitar maestro Jesus Ortega and it was there that he won his first prize at the festival of artistic creation and research in Cuba. More then a dozen prizes would follow, including the ¨Youth prize for the most outstanding Bolivian abroad¨ and being named a ¨world class Bolivian¨ by the Latin-American and Bolivian Press Associations. After graduating with the highest honors at the ´Institution Superior de Arte´ in 1998, Pirai left South America and studied successively in the United States and at Germany´s Cologne University of Music under concert guitarist Hubert Käppel. At the latter institution, he completed his studies with honors in 2001.

At the moment, Piraí lives in Germany with his family. It was there that he met his wife María Fé, and where their little girl Casiopea was born. ¨I like the fact that every place has its own distinct character. When I am in Germany I have more time for María Fe and Casiopea. When I am here I have less time for them because I am travelling so much¨, he explains. Despite his own words, he does not seem to neglect his family. During the interview Casiopea sits on his lap, eating nuts from a little plastic bag, and he carefully makes sure she is feeling comfortable. They seem like any other family, enjoying each others company, and trying their best to spend as much time as possible together: the only difference is they follow a famous guitar player around the world. Just this year, he is traveling eight months, moving his audiences all over the world.

What is this man’s secret? How does he manage to move so many people? The answer cannot rest soley in his extraordinary skill. Rather, it probably lies in the way he experiences the music: ¨Music changes me and lets me see things that are not visible in everyday life, I hope people have the same experience when they are in the audience¨. He explains that he feels he is just a channel for the music, that he is just the messenger for something bigger than himself: ¨Music opens the doors to a more profound reality; it opens the eyes to another dimension. For me music is energy, a body, a unity, something that protects me. Through music we understand that what is most important; it is poetry¨. Evidently, Piraí Vaca plays not only with his mind but with his spirit. To become a better guitar player he says he needed to change the way he studied music. Convinced he needs to train more than just his hands Piraí now studies martial arts to develop his body, mind and spirit. He also meditates every day to “overcome physical and mental barriers and to offer my hands a more flexible body and a quiet mind”. For Piraí, improvement can only be accomplished with an integral development of the whole body. He came to this revelation during one of his concerts in Santa Cruz: ¨In 2000 I played at a festival in Santa Cruz, at the church of San Javier and at once the light shone in my face and I felt like a channel for the music. Suddenly everything was one, the music, the public, the church, and me. I could play the most difficult thing easily. It was a special moment¨.

Piraí Vaca is a devoted artist, a man with passion for the music and determination, and he works hard for the talent he has received. He perserves when many others would stop, making him one of the best of his time. He is one with his guitar. He possesses only the seventh instrument from the famous Greek guitar builder, Alkis Efthimiadis, who only works for the world’s best. Piraí receives special treatment from him: when a new guitar has been built Alkis calls him so he can fly to Greece and take his new treasure home.

So, once again, what is this man’s secret? It can only be a combination of hard work, passion and love for the music. He is always trying to be a better player, a better man, and even a better father and husband. He says he does not hold the future in his hand and therfore cannot predict what it will bring him. But it is sure to be interesting, as he says he wants to compose and maybe even return to Bolivia, ¨I have been thinking about it¨, he says, ¨and I have so many plans¨.

Having accomplished so much the question remains what he is most proud of. The answer is sincere: ¨I am not a proud person, just generally content¨, he says, adding after a short pause, ¨Caisopea, I am so proud of her¨.

Manuela E. Gandarillas:

Despite possessing a constitution that asserts the inalienable rights of the physically and mentally disabled, Bolivia is far from being a society free of discrimination and prejudice against such individuals. Lacking an effective regulatory body to oversee institutions of care, and with serious deficiencies in its infrastructural capacities, Bolivia can oftentimes make life exceedingly difficult for its disabled population. These often overlooked obstacles and limitations place the disabled community in an extraordinarily vulnerable and precarious position, severely curtailing, for example, their already inadequate opportunities for employment and their access to public spaces. Buildings and transportation, for

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