Lucha Reyes (Peruvian singer)

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Lucila J. Sarsines Reyes (July 19, 1936 - October 31, 1973), was a Peruvian performer and one of the most respected singers of her country, one of Peru's most famous Afro-Peruvian personalities as well as a symbol of Peruvian nationalism both in Peru and to expatriates.

History[edit]

Born to a poor family in the capital, Lima, Reyes was one of sixteen siblings. Her family lost their father Tobias Sarsines, who died after she turned six months old. Reyes spent much of her childhood living far from her family, and at a home with other members of her family. She would sell newspapers and lottery tickets to survive. The house she was living in was eventually burned, and she went on to live at a Catholic church.

As a child, Reyes would put on singing shows in front of families and friends, and it was at one of these shows that she met Pitito Perez, a famous Peruvian singer of the era. Perez liked her voice and invited her to join him in a duo. The duo was named Lucha y Juan. The duo would give Reyes the opportunity to be heard on national radio stations. Lucha Reyes debuted on radio in a show named El Sentir de los Barrios (or "The way the Barrio/People Feel") singing the cultural standard "Abandonada" of Sixto Carrera, a song with lyrics that many think resembled her own experiences on the streets.

Lucha Reyes lived a life much like the tragic and heart worn songs she sang. She married a policeman briefly and always refused to declare the reason her marriage lasted for such a short period of time. Later on, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and diabetes. Later in life, she joined the controversial music group Peña Ferrando of Augusto Ferrando (1919-1999), controversial because of the humiliating way in which the band leader treated the group's public.

Art[edit]

Reyes acted sporadically in theater plays around Lima and would later go on to act in a movie named Una Carta al Cielo ("A Letter to Heaven") of Salvador Oda, about a boy whose dead mother (voiced-over by Reyes) would speak to him. It convinced Reyes she had a future in acting as well. Lucha performed in various acts, living on art in a Bohemian style, and produced music favored by the military nationalist government, who encouraged the diffusion of the Peruvian cultural expressions through mass media.

In 1970, helped by Nilo Marchand, manager of the record label FTA (Fabricantes Te'cnicos Asociados), Reyes recorded her greatest success, "Regresa" ("Come Back") of Augusto Polo Campos, a number one hit internationally. On the success of "Regresa" Reyes recorded her first LP and, soon after, began her only international tour.

Last days[edit]

The diabetes worsened and finished leaving her blind. Accentuating her cardiac complications were an uninterrupted routine of work and a raging alcoholism that came from her Bohemian surroundings. There are some who even say that, in the last years of her life, Lucha Reyes fell in to a self-destruction vortex that only could have a sad end. Reyes may have known death was imminent.

Followed by a public who idolized her in life, and wanting to close its existence with a finishing touch, Lucha Reyes asked composer Pedro Pacheco to write "Mi Última Canción" ("My Last Song") one of her more touching and collected recordings, and on October 30, 1973, one day before her death, she sang "My Last Song" live in a well-known local radio broadcasting station with sincere tears in her eyes. On the following day, the October 31, 1973, Lucha Reyes, "La Morena de Oro del Perú" (Peru's Black Woman of Gold) died. She is buried in the "Cemetery the Angel" in Lima.

Legacy[edit]

Lucha Reyes and the ensemble Los Morochucos placed black performers among the leading interpreters of the vals criollo and marinera genres. Although it is not by origin an Afro-Peruvian music, by expertly phrasing lyrics and playing the vals criollo with slightly off-beat accents, as if pulling back and pushing on the regular meter. Marineras are songs done in honor of the sailors who had fought in the war with Chile and is played with two guitars and cajón, accompanied by hand clapping.

The vals criollo derives from the Viennese waltz, but feels quite different and has a lush, romantic character, from the Viennese waltz, as well as themes of love. The vals criollo has a drier, more restrained, sound, and keeps a certain distance from its subject. The addition of the cajón to the traditional instrumentation of two guitars served also to give the vals an Afro-Peruvian dimension.

Songs such as "¿Qué Importa?" of Juan Mosto ("What Does It Matter?"), with lyrics like " yet another failure is but a drop of water in the ocean for me " were made famous by Lucha Reyes and made here a National icon, as well as her songs, rich with Peruvian Nationalism and criollo pride. Today, October 31, the same day of her death, is the "Día de la Canción Criolla" (Day of the Creole Song) and is celebrated in Peru every year.

Discography[edit]

  • El Show de Lucha Reyes
  • Cuatro Estrellas Criollas
  • Jamás impedirás
  • La Morena de Oro del Perú
  • Lucha por Siempre....Lucha
  • Lucha Reyes "Una Carta al Cielo"
  • Mi Última Canción
  • Siempre Criolla
  • ¡Regresa!....
  • Una carta al cielo
  • Un rosal divino
  • Yo tengo una pena

Compilations[edit]

  • Criollos Inolvidables
  • Criollos Inolvidables Vol.2
  • Criollos Inolvidables Vol.3
  • Regresa: Lucha Reyes, La Morena de Oro del Perú (Music & More, 2010)