Under a Brazilian Sun
7 Aprile 2020

La voz de la tierra

Sing to the mountains


The territory we know today as North-eastern Argentina was anciently called Qullasuyu, a Quechua word meaning "Southern Region of the Inca Empire".

Here live people who sing to the mountains as a form of expressing identity, they trust remedies that come from the forest and pray in rituals where the Cross shares the ground with some bizarre brothers, masked as a Carnival parade.

All-around stand tall red mountains where earlier in history the largest empire in pre-Colombian America was built.

Deep green forest makes it difficult for a man to travel, for Tigers hide silent in the unwalked paths of what is still praised as Mother Earth.


In the lands between Argentina and Bolivia, crossing mountains and valleys in extremely precarious conditions is a very common practice, as it is the ancient habit of moving from valley to mountain and back.

Singing coplas is a form of finding solace in the wanderings, paying tribute to Mother Earth and celebrating the beauty of a woman’s eyes.

This poetic form belongs to South American oral tradition. Those who practice it define it as the music of the ancestors.

In its original form, the copla is a way of singing to the herd. The drum marks the rhythm of regular footsteps and the voice guides the animals towards a slow mountain climb.

The metrics are based on an octosyllabic structure organized in stanzas. It belongs to the anonymous popular tradition but has been largely adopted by musicians, writers, and poets.


More than a style of singing, doing coplas is a way of living and seeing the world.

When I interviewed them about the creative process of improvisation, the copla singers answered with the innocence of the ones who don’t need to distinguish between art and life.

Curiously enough, before saying their names, the singers announce the name of the village where they are coming from.


Amada cajita mía,

los dos debemos cantar:

tú con tu suave armonía

yo con mi voz desigual.

De día voy al trabajo,

de noche salgo a cantar,

cantando como el coyuyo

anunciando el carnaval.

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