Rafael FusaJazz in Peru

View from elsewhere 29.10.2021

For nearly three months now, jazz fans have been able to meet in a discreet place, in the heart of the San Blas district, a stone's throw from the very touristy Plaza de Armas in Cuzco. The Peruvian city, which is home to dozens of rock and salsa clubs, now has a club entirely devoted to jazz and its many offshoots, more or less experimental: Casa Palacio 116. 

Juan José Herrera, a double bass player from the Barcelona Conservatory, is behind this new venue, which opened after several months of pandemic. A challenge! "I left Spain and moved to Cuzco four years ago. My mother is Peruvian. I wanted a place where musicians from the Peruvian jazz scene, and more generally from South America, could meet. There was no place for jazz in Cuzco! Now, the challenge is to bring together an audience that is much more used to traditional and Latin music. It's not easy, but we offer the most varied programme possible. And despite the still tense health situation in Peru, the young club organises concerts every week: on Tuesdays, jam sessions with young musicians, and on Wednesdays and Thursdays, concerts with professional groups and soloists.

On Thursday 14 October, a few Cuzquenians, average age 25-30, are crowding in front of the glass door of the small hall. On the bill, a big name: saxophonist Rafael Fusa Miranda, from Lima. The spectators sit on the four wooden benches set up in front of the small stage, lined with carpets. 

The venue is intimate, with white walls and exposed stonework, and glasses filled with Argentinian wine clink before the concert begins. The musicians chat with the audience.The saxophone is not a very common instrument in Peru," explains Rafael Fusa, who, after a few years of classical training at the conservatory, preferred to continue his training on his own, in contact with jazzmen. In my music, I am very influenced by the jazz of Miles Davis and Charlie Mingus, but also by the traditional music of my country. But his attachment to the Andean folklore of Huancayo and Ayacucho, and particularly to the music of the ritual dance of Los Danzantes de Tijeras, which is also a dance of cultural resistance, is a constant in his musical experiments, which he shares particularly with his group Fusa/Gomez Duo.

The compositions that Rafael and his musicians played that evening oscillate between surprising modalities, with an experimental flavour, and references to a more classical jazz language, with daring improvisations and an arsenal of traditional percussion (grelos, rain sticks, maracas) docked in different places on the drums.
Passionate musicians and a new place that we wish long life to.

Suzanne Gervais


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