April 2012

Takipayanakus Festival

Where does humor meet music? Spaceman Africa takes us to Takipayanakus Festival where second-degree humor is highly recommended.

By: Spaceman Africa
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Adelaine – Australia

Takipayanakus group singing
Photo: Spaceman Africa

Just when you thought the festivities of carnaval were over and you could finally rest awhile, another festival takes place in Cochabamba to entertain and amuse us.

A week after the Corso de Corsos captivated Cochabambinos, the festival of Takipayanakus was staged at Cochabamba´s Felix Capriles Stadium. A Quechan word, meaning to sing together, Takipayanakus is a Cochabamba festival celebrated throughout all the valleys of the department of Cochabamba.

Two small groups at a time take it in turns to sing, dance and play music on stage to an eager crowd but what makes these performances different is that the words are improvised and often contain humorous insults aimed at the other group. The usual battle of the sexes is a feature and insults about the size of genitalia are a common taunt.

“What makes these performances different is that the words are improvised and often contains humorous insults aimed at other group. The usual battle of sexes is feature and insults about the size of genitalia are a common taunt.”

However, the teasing is all in fun and in keeping with the loose attitude of carnaval where otherwise normally disapproved behaviours are accepted as part of the spirit of the festival. The clever and funny lyrics are met with great laughter by everyone in the audience.

The festival is predominately celebrated by the indigenous community and the songs are sung in Quechua. Many groups decorate their clothes with streamers and balloons as they perform using instruments such as guitar, accordion, charango and/or bass drum. Each group is rated by a panel of judges based on costumes and performances with cash prizes going to the best groups. The groups contain people of all ages and quite often the singing duties are conducted by the younger generations.

Waiting to go onstage
Photo: Spaceman Africa

Just like the old saying goes, ‘never a truer word said in jest’, sometimes the insults are close to the truth causing the crowd to laugh even more.

But not everyone finds this kind of humour funny and they are offended by the sometimes sexist witticism, as Bolivian President Evo Morales found out.

The President came under criticism from feminist groups in February over his participation in the singing of sexist lyrics at a carnaval party at the doors of the government palace containing sexual innuendo towards his female ministers and their underwear.

“Not everyone finds this kind of humor funny and are offended by the sometimes sexist witticism”

The President, who already has a reputation as a sexist and womaniser, angered critics who claimed that even with the latitude of carnaval, humiliating and denigrating remarks were unacceptable. However, the song was well received in the spirit in which it was intended by the crowd at the party, including all the women present.

Nor were there any complaints made publicly by the ministers at which the remarks were aimed; but it is not known if they were not offended or just keeping quiet out of loyalty to their political party.

The crowd of thousands at Felix Capriles Stadium, however, had no such complaints about the Takipayanakus they saw. Minus the water, foam and alcohol of the Corso de Corsos, Takipayanakus serves as a relaxed end to the excesses of carnaval.

Scenario at Stadium
Photo: Spaceman Africa
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