Guardia, who grew up and spent his life in the region of Ayacucho, started playing the charango when he was 13 years old. His first instrument was made of willow, with strings of goat sinew. He played with the encouragement of family members, many of who were also musicians.
From these beginnings, he spent more than 70 years of his life as a musician, collaborating with Peru’s most respected artists. Jose Maria Arguedas, one of Peru’s most important literary figures of the 20th century, actually dedicated one of his books to Guardia.
Jaime Guardia spent much of his career with the musical group Lira Paucina, which played traditional music from the region of Ayacucho. Here is a taste of their traditional music:
Guardia continued collaborating with some of Peru’s best musicians until the last years of his life. Here is a more contemporary version of the same song “Madrecita,” which he recently sang with musicians from across Peru.
Jaime Guardia took the charango, a traditional Andean stringed guitar, and played it with freshness, while also embracing traditional musical styles. He was a master of a technique known as the arpeggio, which is a way of simultaneously plucking several strings to create harmonies. With the arpeggio, he created masterful melodies. This song, Virgines del Sol, is one of Peru’s most important traditional songs, yet Guardia brought a fresh flavor.
Traditional Ayacuchian music differentiates itself from other types of traditional Peruvian music because of its emphasis on simplicity, lyricism, and harmony. The themes of many songs relate to connections with nature, such as water, fertility, and life transformations. And of course, Ayacuchan songs are often about love. Since Guardia spent much of his life researching the musical styles of his native lands of Ayacucho, he recovered many histories that we would have otherwise lost. To get another taste of Ayacuchan music, check out this video:
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