Canarios del Chaco at Teatro Municipal

Whilst some things in Bolivia are relatively expensive, an evening out at the theatre isn’t. We paid 20Bs ($2.87) for a seat in the upper ring at the Teatro Municipal (the most expensive was 30Bs and the cheapest was 10Bs).

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The theatre itself was gorgeous – red velvet seats, painted ceilings and creaky wood floors – and worth the price alone considering we didn’t really know what the concert was going to be. The program said folk music, which we thought might be interesting so we went to buy tickets a few hours before the show (this being Bolivia, we got tickets numbered 1, 2 and 3 because we were the first people). They have a delightfully old-fashioned way of assigning seats; a wooden board with little holes arranged like the seating plan, with slips of paper curled up in the holes. Like some kind of carnival game, you choose where you want to sit and pull out the paper slips, which you need to keep safe for later finding your seats.

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The Canarios del Chaco are a group from Tarija, in southern Bolivia, so there were no charangos or zampoña. Instead the music used fiddles, guitars and drums. I recorded some songs with my iPod. Although the quality is not too great, you can still get an idea of the overall show.

It was a nice surprise to have some of the songs accompanied by dancers as we thought it was just going to be the musicians. This next video is my favourite; it not only has more twirling dancers, but also a religious icon carried on a litter, a guy in black costume and blackface, as well as some guys dressed in animal skins whipping each other with ropes. I wish I knew what it was all about!

This third video shows some very twirly skirts and some pretty awesome dance moves from the guys.

Incidentally, we saw a tiny boy in the audience dressed in the same costume as these guys. He later turned up on the side of the stage during the final song. I hoped he was going to dance, but he disappeared backstage so I can only guess he was a relative of one of the performers. You can see him briefly on the left in this final video. Be warned: it’s pretty long and they tried to get the audience to join in but I guess we weren’t prepared at first. However, by the end we’d got the hang of it and demanded an encore.

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