Music of Paraguay
The music of Paraguay has a long history.
The Paraguayan polka combines ternary and binary rhythms, whereas the European only uses binary. The most famous style of music is the Guarania, created by the Paraguayan musician José Asunción Flores in 1925. The Guarania accomplishes this by using a combination of slow rhythms and melodies of melancholia character. Other popular genres of traditional music in Paraguay are the zarzuela and the "Paraguayan Songs", which are derived from the Paraguayan polka. Examples of Paraguayan Guarania are Juan B. Mora - Imposible, Duo Ñamandu - Che Rope'a Vype, Lorenzo Perez - Mi Dicha Lejana, Los Indianos - Mis Noches Sin Ti and others.
The Spanish guitar and European harp are among the most popular instruments, while dances include the lively polka and distinctive bottle dance, which involves the performer twirling a bottle around her head. Composer and guitarist Agustín Barrios is perhaps the country's best known export.
The Paraguayan harp deserves special mention as a popular instrument with a national style associated with it. The harp in South America dates back to at least 1556-7, possibly as early as the beginning of the 16th century. It was introduced to Paraguay by jesuit priests who came to evangelise the native population of indigenous Guaranis and founded many missions, called "reducciones" . It was frequently used in church music in place of the organ or harpsichord. The Paraguayan harp is the national instrument of Paraguay, its shape and size were consolidated in the early 20th century by interpreter and composer Felix Perez Cardozo, who composed some of the most memorable pieces for the Paraguayan harp. It stands about 1.5 metres (5 ft) high and is very light and portable. The sound box is made of cedro (a type of mahogany) and pine. It is played either in a sitting position, or standing up when it is fitted with extending legs. The harp has 36 or 37 strings, which go through the centre of the neck making it identical from either side, this being a unique characteristic of the Paraguayan harp. The lower strings were once made from the leather of the belly of horses and the upper strings of steel but now they are all made of nylon. The original wooden pegs have mostly been replaced by mechanical pegs like those on the guitar, making them easier to tune. It has no pedals and is a diatonic instrument, which limits much of the traditional music to a major key and its related minor. There are however several methods of making semitones. One is to shorten the strings at the lower end by pushing a small peg between the strings. Another method is to shorten the strings at the top end by means of a metal key which is held between the fingers of the dominant hand. However, more recently, harps have begun to be constructed with the addition of levers to overcome this limitation, and many players are now using levered harps.
Several world-popular genres of music, such as rock are fairly new in the Paraguayan music scene. This is because of the fierce dictatorship enforced by former President Alfredo Stroessner during his mandate from 1954 to 1989, in which he banned all forms of liberal expressions. Despite that, a few rock groups were formed in the 1970s such as The Aftermad's and The Blue Caps. It wasn't until Stroessner's downfall in 1989 that rock groups emerged. In the 1990s groups such as Chris Patik, Enemigos de la Klase, Deliverans, El Templo, Dogma, Shamán, Turkish Blend and Slow Agony became popular. In the new millennium, Paraguayan rock bands have gained a strong following thanks to the big rock festivals such as "Pilsen Rock" and "Quilmes Rock", which gather around 60,000 spectators for every edition. The bands have even gathered some international success by touring throughout Latin America and even making small gigs in the United States. The most popular rock bands as of now are Rolando Chaparro, Flou, Revolber, Ripe Banana Skins, Area 69, Paiko, Salamandra, Gaia, and NOD. The real rock bands are 220 Voltios, Sucios y Desprolijos, Steinkrug, Linaje, Black Manzana, and Alto Voltaje.
There is a small but vibrant jazz community in Paraguay. Key players include: Palito Miranda (alto sax), Remigio Pereira (trombone), Victor "Toti" Morel (drums), Oswal Gonzalez (drums), Riolo Alvarenga (drums), Jorge "Lobito" Martinez (piano), Carlos Schvartzman (guitar), Carlos Centurión (piano), Gustavo Viera (guitar), Eduardo "Tato" Zilli (bass), Nene Salerno (bass), Ariel Burgos (bass), Victor Morel Jr. (drums), German Lema (organ), Jose Villamayor (guitar), Bruno Muñoz (tenor and alto sax) and others.
The main exponents are Agustín Barrios Mangoré, José Asunción Flores and Juan Carlos Moreno. Silva studied abroad and reproduced, in the guarani vocal form, the indigenous music, based on the European technique. Moreno composed works inspired on popular themes in a romantic classical path.
- South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean (Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Volume 2) Publisher: Routledge; Har/Com edition (October 1, 1998) ISBN 978-0-8240-4947-8
- Paraguay 200 years of Independence in the Heart of South America. R.Munro 2010 ISBN 978-0-9567405-1-9
- Monitor. Enciclopedia Salvat para todos. ISBN 84-7137-223-1 (1965)