“It teaches people about the generations before them, and their ancestors, and more importantly it teaches them about the culture in Peru so it won’t be lost,” said Lalo Izquierdo, an Afro-Peruvian musician, about his recent performance at Berkeley High School (BHS). On Tuesday, October 29, multiple classes met in the Afro-Haitian dance room to experience a hands-on performance and activity with Izquierdo. He and his performing partners displayed multiple Peruvian instruments and a corresponding dance.
The attending students from the Chicanx Latinx department, African-American studies, and Afro-Haitian dance department were all invited to participate in the performance towards the end, after being taught how to use the instruments and do the dance. The performance was received extremely well by the classes, especially during the interactive portion where nearly a third of the class joined in, playing and dancing with the same passion Izquierdo had. Izquierdo said he was excited to perform at BHS. “Berkeley is very accepting, and it is a place where I want to share what I know with the people,” he said. The three classes involved helped Izquierdo and his fellow performers feel comfortable by matching his energy and participating thoroughly in the activity.
Izquierdo has lived in Peru for his whole life, but he gives performances in the US often. He notices the differences between the two locations. “The culture is very different because here in the United States you get a lot of help from the government and different organizations, but in Peru you have to find your way by yourself. You don’t get any support from the government,” Izquierdo said. This stark contrast between his home country and the US, where he performs, is the essential reason he does classes and workshops in the US, specifically for kids.
Losing the culture he grew up in is not an option for Izquierdo, although he sees it happening constantly with others. “We want to play these drums to keep the culture alive, but some people play the drums as a gimmick, or to make money … it’s changing the way the drums are played, and it’s not good for Peru,” Izquierdo said. Teaching his audience, especially younger generations, about the Peruvian culture that is in need of preservation is Izquierdo’s fundamental goal.
The students in attendance took this message to heart during the performance, as they fully embraced the spirit that Izquierdo and his performing partners displayed. He initially brought a few volunteers up to play different instruments including the Cajon, Cajita, and Quijada (donkey jaw) which are all distinct Afro-Peruvian percussion instruments. Many of the audience members are in BHS’s Afro-Haitian dance class, making them musically and rhythmically adept enough to easily pick up the instruments and follow a repeated sequence as others were slowly added in. Subsequently, people started dancing, then more joined in. With each addition the energy in the room built. Soon the teachers, as well as Izquierdo, joined in. He was able to capture the passion with which he performed and translate it to the students, and it showed through their performance. On the surface, it seems as though Izquierdo’s performance and teaching merely allowed for the students in the three attending classes to have fun, and see one aspect of a new culture, but Izquierdo knows that his visit to BHS provided much more than that. “When making music, you can translate what you’re hearing in your head to what you’re feeling in your body, it helps you maintain information better. This translation between the music and your body and the words and culture of Peru allows you to retain all of the information at once,” he said. By allowing students to have fun, create their own music, and dance, Izquierdo taught them many aspects of Peruvian culture effectively while still keeping them engaged. Izquierdo provided an unforgettable experience to help them remember the pieces of his culture that he shared by intertwining the music and the history that must be remembered.