Daniel Alomía Robles

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Daniel Alomía Robles

Daniel Alomía Robles (3 January 1871 – 17 July 1942) born in Huánuco, was a Peruvian composer and ethnomusicologist. He is best known for composing the song El Cóndor pasa in 1913 as part of a zarzuela, a musical play that alternates between spoken and sung parts, by the same name. This song was based on Andean folk songs and is possibly the best known Peruvian song because the melody was used by Simon and Garfunkel as their melody for "El Condor pasa (If I Could)", though the song has different lyrics.

Early life[edit]

Daniel Alomía Robles was born in Peru in the city of Huánuco on January 3, 1871.[1] His father, a French immigrant,[2] was Marcial Alomía and his mother was Micaela Robles.[3]

Alomía Robles said in an interview in 1942 that his first exposure to music was when he was six years old and his mother took him to hear mass in Huánuco and he began to sing along with the chorus.[4] Alomía Robles said that he had a good ear and could reproduce any sound that he heard and that he took special pleasure as a child in singing the indigenous songs of Peru.[4]

Musical education[edit]

Alomía Robles attended primary school at La Mineria in Huánuco and moved with his family to Lima, Peru in 1882.[1][5] It was while living with an uncle in Lima at the age of 12 that Alomía Robles first heard musical theatre.[4] Lima in the early twentieth century was filled with musical theatre and many well known musicians made their home in Lima.[4] Alomía Robles discovered that the theatre needed extras in the chorus line and offered himself so he could hear the music for free and learn the operettas of that period.[4]

In Lima Alomía Robles studied at the college Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.[1] Alomía Robles' early interest in music was encouraged there by his teachers Manuel De la Cruz Panizo and Claudio Rebagliatti.[1] Alomía Robles says that Claudio Rebagliatti took him under his wing and offered to teach him music if Alomía Robles would help Rebagliatti in his concerts.[4]

In 1892, Alomía Robles decided to study medicine at University of San Marcos.[1][5] In Alomía Robles's third year studying medicine, he traveled with other students the jungle where he met catholic missionary Gabriel Sala, who came to have a decisive influence on Alomía Robles's life in music.[3] Sala had created a city in the jungle with 400 men and women who he taught to work in the fields and build their houses.[6] Sala said to his people that it was not good to work without resting so every Sunday at 2 pm he brought the people together to sing and dance.[6]

Alomía Robles decided to leave the university in 1894 and dedicate his life to music.[1][5] Alomía Robles' family, who had encouraged him to study medicine, were against his trying to make a life in music.[4]

Musical travels in South America[edit]

Alomía Robles began traveling throughout Peru compiling the stories and myths of the folk music of the jungles of the amazon and the mountains of the Andes and collecting versions of the songs from the most remote villages of Peru.[1] Alomía Robles also traveled to Bolivia and Ecuador during this period.[1] During this period Alomía Robles was appointed to the posts of Subperfecto and Justice of the Peace in Jauja and later mayor of Huacho.[5] Marcela Robles, granddaughter of Alomía Robles, writes that in a time when the musical folklore of Peru was ignored or looked down on, Alomía Robles was a pioneer in collecting the music that otherwise would have disappeared.[6]

In February 1897 Alomía Robles married Sebastiana Godoy Agostini, a Cuban pianist known as "Chana" whom he had met while he was living in Jauja.[7][8] His wife supported him during his travels in South America.[8] In an interview in 1942 with Esteban Pavletich Trujillo, Alomía Robles credited his wife with the impetus for creating his first musical works.[4]

In 1910 Alomía Robles published his discovery that the musical structure of Andean music was a Pentatonic scale.[1] In 1911 Alomía Robles traveled to Argentina for the performance of his first opera Illa Cori that told the story of the Inca ruler Huayna Cápac and his conquest of Quito.

"El Cóndor pasa"[edit]

Simon and Garfunkel popularized "El Cóndor pasa", with new lyrics composed by Paul Simon (above)

In 1913 Alomía Robles composed "El cóndor pasa", and the song was first performed publicly at the Teatro Mazzi in Lima.[1] The song was composed as part of a zarzuela (Spanish operetta) of strong social content about Peruvian miners in Cerro de Pasco and their relations with the foreign mining company.[9] Marcela Robles writes that the zarzuela contained eight parts and was performed over 3,000 times in Lima at the Teatro Mazzi.[6]

Covers and adaptations

The only original version of the zarzuela (7 musical pieces) has been reconstructed and recorded in 2013 by the Colectivo Cultural Centenario El Cóndor Pasa association. The pieces have been written for orchestra and not for Andean instruments. The most famous parts like the prelude, parade and cachua have been covered and adapted from the piano arrangement that Daniel Alomía Robles sold to The Edward B. Marks Music Corp. in 1933, in New York. These are exempt from the any copyright fee, due to the elapsed time. The parade and the cachua have been widely covered and spread, and in some cases, lyrics have been added (all of them should be considered apocryphal) and generally their rhythms and instrumentations have been changed.

In 1965, the American musician Paul Simon first heard the Los Incas version in a performance at the Théâtre de l'Est Parisien (Paris), in which both Simon and the band participated. Simon requested use of the song for a future recording, to which the band informed him it was a melody belonging to a popular Peruvian composer. (Jorge Milchberg, leader of Los Incas, is credited as co-author on their version, having arranged it and added the well-known introduction which was not part of the original melody.) In 1970, the duo Simon & Garfunkel eventually covered the Los Incas version as "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)" for the album "Bridge Over Troubled Water", with English lyrics by Simon, a recording which attracted international acclaim. As Simon believed the song to be a traditional Andean folk melody, only his name appeared as writer of the lyrics. Daniel Alomía Robles' son, Peruvian filmmaker Armando Robles Godoy, unsuccessfully sued for royalties but subsequently wrote new lyrics for the song himself, using Paul Simon's version as a reference.

Life in the United States[edit]

In 1919 Alomía Robles traveled to the United States, living in New York City for fourteen years until his return to Peru in 1933.[1] Alomía Robles found life in the United State hard and a constant series of ups and downs even after he won third prize in a musical contest with 3,000 competitors.[4] During his time in the United States, Alomía Robles performed in concerts, recorded music, and offered talks about Peruvian music.[5]

Sebastiana Godoy Agostini traveled to New York with her husband, but died of cancer the year after her arrival.[8] Her sister, Carmela Godoy Agostini, had accompanied the couple to New York to take care of Sebastiana Godoy Agostini during her long illness.[8] In 1922, two years after Sebastiana Godoy Agostini died, Alomía Robles wed Carmela Godoy Agostini, going on to sire two more children, Armando and Mario, bringing his total to twelve.[2][8][10] Marcela Robles writes that her grandmother Carmela Godoy Agostini supported the family during the Depression in New York City by selling paper flowers while Alomía Robles sat in front of his piano pursuing his music indifferent to his surroundings.[8]

Alomía Robles' second youngest child, Armando Robles Godoy, who became a well known Peruvian film director,[11] says that in his fourteen years in New York City, his father never learned to speak English.[2] He also said his father had a beautiful baritone voice and was obsessed with the number "seven", only one of the mysteries that surrounded the magical world that his father lived in.[2]

The New York Times reported on July 25, 1930 that the Goldman Band led by conductor Edwin Frank Goldman had played a program of Peruvian music composed by Alomía Robles on the campus of New York University.[12] At the conclusion of the first half of the program Alomía Robles presented a bust of Mr. Goldman to the conductor.[12] Alomía Robles pointed out in a brief address that Mr. Goldman was the only American conductor who had made extensive use of Peruvian music.[12] The program included five compositions by Alomía Robles, "March Peru", "En Los Andes", "Hymn to the Sun", "Cashua" and "Fondero".[12] According to The New York Times, "[s]everal of his compositions were based on ancient Inca melodies, and the music from which "Hymn to the Sun" was arranged is estimated to be about 3,000 years old."[12]

Alomía Robles returned to Peru in 1933 after fourteen years in the United States[1] and took up the post of the head of the Section of Fine Arts at the Ministry of Education in Lima, Peru.[13] His son Sebastian Tomas Robles remained in the United States and in 1933 became a staff cartoonist for the Editors Press Service in New York and was selected by the Washington Post to sketch government personalities for the National Gallery.[10]

Musical legacy[edit]

Alomía Robles compiled over 700 compositions of popular music of Peru[14] and according to the catalog compiled by Rodolfo Holzmann en 1943,[14] Alomía Robles composed more than 238 songs[14] including "El indio", "Resurgimiento de los Andes", "Amanecer andino", "Danza huanca" and "Alcedo y su ballet".[1] In 1990, Armando Robles Godoy published a folio of his father's compositions, Himno al Sol: la obra folclórica y musical de Daniel Alomía Robles.[11] Robles Godoy said this was a labor of love and that it that took him two years of research to collect the pieces with the help of Enrique Pinilla y Édgar Valcárcel.[11] In a 1940 article on the state of music in Peru, The New York Times praised Alomía Robles as having "a considerable natural talent" and for "bettering the knowledge of the folklore of his country."[15]

Personal life[edit]

Alomía Robles was married to Sebastiana Godoy Agostini with whom he had ten children including four sons: Jack, Felix, Ernest, and Carlos.[2][10] After Alomía Robles' wife died of cancer, he married his wife's sister, Carmela Godoy Agostini, with whom he had two more children: Mario and Armando.[2][8][10]

Alomía Robles died in Chosica, about thirty miles from Lima, of septicemia on June 18, 1942.[1][16]

On August 14, 1996 Alomía Robles' remains were returned to his hometown of Huánuco where they were received by thousands of people.[3]

On December 1, 2006 the family of Alomía Robles, represented by his son Armando Robles Godoy, donated the original manuscripts of all Alomía Robles' compositions to the Catholic University of Peru.[14] The manuscripts included the originals of “El cóndor pasa” and “Himno al sol”, and all of the “Colección Folklórica”.[14]


  • Varallanos, José. (1988). "El cóndor pasa. Vida y obra de Daniel Alomía Robles". Talleres Gráficos P.I. Villanueva. S.A. subject to law 13714. First edition, November 1988. Lima-Perú.
  • Colectivo Cultural Centenario El Cóndor Pasa, ed. (2013). El cóndor pasa…Cien años después. Lima. ISBN 9786124647208. Registered in the National Library of Peru.
  • Salazar Mejía, Luis (2013). El misterio del cóndor: Memoria e historia de "El cóndor pasa…". Lima: Taky Onqoy Ediciones. ISBN 9786124660504. Registered in the National Library of Peru.
  • Cerrón Fetta Mario, (2014). Cuadernos de Música Peruana Nº 12. Lima.Editorial/ Cuadernos de Música. Register: Legal deposit Nº2008-06894. Registered in the National Library of Peru.

External links

Audio and video

1.-(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tIrD-QcqF4) Three (original) fragments

2.-(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeQjlIDC5JQ) The seven musical (original) musical numbers

3.-(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8drK9vlhwQ&list=PLkbNDDkPK5O6lQmSlAxtZKGJoxFz5CQRs) The original complete zarzuela

4.-(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yt_MK2ENGBE) The first recording, 1917

5.-(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJI3D8U9clQ) Original version for piano, recorded 1933


1.-(https://plus.google.com/photos/112548598961586504167/albums/5974161506696646561) Scans of the original score by Daniel Alomía Robles

2.-(https://plus.google.com/photos/112548598961586504167/albums/5972295198266902673) Scans of the original libretto (republished in 2013)

3.-(https://plus.google.com/photos/112548598961586504167/albums/5983027948222053617) Scans of the reconstructed score

4.-(https://plus.google.com/photos/112548598961586504167/albums/5990868152577522497) Scan of an adapted score where Jorge Milchberg appears as co-author of the music