January 2012

The Chaco War Band

The military band has been one of the most important musical groups in Bolivian’s popular music. The guerrilla José Miguel Lanza, is attributed to create the first Bolivian band with indigenous apprentices that played “sikus” accompanied by drums and escorted his battalion, called “Los Colorados” (nowadays the Presidential guard of honor of our country).

By: Walter Sánchez
Instituto Investigaciones Antropológicas

Rigoberto Sainz with his band
Photo: courtesy of Rigoberto Sainz personal álbum

Tradition says that with this band, led by Sergeant Ismael Crespo, a guerrilla triumphantly entered the city of La Paz in January 1825. When created the Republic (August 1825), this small band passed to form part of the 1st Battalion of Infantry.

5:00 to 5:30 morning Wake up
5:30 to 6:00 Personal hygiene
6:00 to 6:30 Cleaning bedrooms
6:30 to 7:00 Breakfast and Attendance
7:00 to 8:00 Military Instruction
8:00 to 9:00 Instrument Practice
9:00 to 10:00 Singing Scales
10:00 to 11:00 Instrument Practice
11:00 to 11:30 Instrument Cleaning
11:30 to noon Lunch
12:00 to 1:00 afternoon Break
1:00 to 2:00 Primary teachings
2:00 to 4:00 Instrument Practice
3:00 to 4:15 Tea and Bread
4:15 to 5:00 Military Clothing
5:00 to 5:30 Dinner
5:30 to 7:00 Break
7:00 to 8:00 Music Theory
8:00 to 9:00 Homework
At 9:00 night Silence

With the creation of the Military School of Music and the professionalization of the military musicians, the consolidation of the band as a musical group was finally formed in the late nineteenth century . This school (located in the department of La Paz) taught humanistic music education, music and military music. It was well known by its very strict regime of schedules for students. To give us an idea of how the schedule was handled at the Military School of Music, let’s see the schedule published by the newspaper El Diario of the city of La Paz (30.IX.1926) -, which ruled the daily lives of children.

With the graduation of the military musicians from this School, each one of the military regiments formed a band. Due to the fact that their directors were addressed to different garrisons this became the main channel meant for the popularization of national and international music.

A circumstance that was written by Benjamin Alenjo in 1925 who describes this group as one of the most important to popularize the plays “most revered” by French and Italian theatrical music (and in recent years the works of the great masters of other schools) and to give asylum, nutrition and movement to the criollo-mestizo music (tristes, bailes, cuecas, boleros y huayños)”.

By then, the military band goes to become the center of military and civilian life in many towns and cities. Hence, the military band began to be associated with two main areas: (1) the barracks, with the accompaniment of mass meeting and military parades playing hymns and marches. (2) The public square, where these musicians played a diverse repertoire of national and international music most listened. A third area of the bands is combat.


Rigoberto Sainz with his band
Photo: courtesy of Rigoberto Sainz personal álbum

Bolivian military bands are in charge to accompany with their martial notes the regiments of war fighters in the Pacific War (1879). In the beginning of the twentieth century, musicians of the bands were shifted to the Acre to increase a sense of sovereignty and instilling patriotism to the soldiers and residents of ‘Z low Amazonia. However, the most warlike event for military band was the Chaco War (1932 – 1935). The testimony of colonel Rigoberto Sainz, who was one of the few directors of the bands that went to Chaco war with his band, is relevant to understand the role of these groups in the military strife:

“The war’s break out on the 12th of June in 1932, most of the military bands were moved to Chaco area, leaving their units to integrate different commando corps or Military High Command. Cochabamba organized a band with all the volunteers from the valley as well in Uyuni with the musicians of Llica, Salinas and Garcia de Mendoza, who were also mobilized with their own musical instruments. In the fighting areas the bands carried out two major roles: helping to encourage the national sentiment which lead to heroic actions. In other moments, their instrument parts were used as stretchers, to provide ammunition and supplies...

Many bands have even entered the first line of fire to give agreeable moments to our fighters with national symphonies cheer the troops. Thus the band of the 9th division line of fire visited twice a week the lookout of “Cañaca Chile”. Captain Asimilado Aurelio Gutiérrez, director of the band, was taken prisoner in Alihuatá as Company commander.

The Capitain Asimilado Gerardo Torres Ruiz became crazy at 7th kilometer sector entering into the woods suffering a mental illness. Captured by Paraguayans he was quartered in “Tres Cruces” We have the pay slip of the directors that participated in the Chaco war: Alfredo Aguirre, Donato Concha, Gerardo Torrez Ruiz, Aurelio Gutiérrez, Zenón Sardón, Rigoberto Sainz, Max Aliaga, Alfredo Peláez”.

With the last shot of the military campaign, all the bands were transferred although some of them returned to their garrisons and units. Some stay in Chaco area until 1939, the first army corps, as well as the First, Third and Fourth divisions. The same year all were united into a unique band under the direction of the Captain Asimilado Rigoberto Sainz, for the 4th Military Region.

Calendario ENERO 2012

> Concierto de guitarra Clásica
1ª. Parte Dúo Ayvú (Richard Trewhella e Iván Kátery) 2ª.
Parte Marcos Puña.
Información/reservas: www.marcospuna.com -
4402641 / 77235075 y cba@cbacoch.org - 4251225
17 de enero - Hrs. 19:30 - Bs.20


Profesor: Artista Marcos Puña.
Información/reservas: www.marcospuna.com,

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