Luzmila Carpio’s El Retorno del Sol provides moments when the earth opens up and a bird-like cry echoes from the interior. We are listening to a conversation with Pachamama or Mother Earth and in this world “god is alive and magic is afoot.” The music calls you to linger in this mystery, where time and space halt for a moment and the temporal world and all the damage it has caused fades into “Chakana Sagrada” or “Sacred Bridge.”
One of the oldest symbols in the Andes, the Chakana cross is a defining relic for Carpio’s indigenous community. Viewed as a compass, it is directional, viewed as a shamanic tool, it becomes a linkage to the otherworld and the constellation of the Southern Cross.
Carpio speaks for nature, singing the primordial rhythms she learned as a child in her Quechua-Aymara community of Qala Qala in Bolivia. “Chakana Sagrada” has lyrics which invoke the ancient Aymara calendar, when July 21 or day zero begins the New Year, a date derived from 51,000 cycles of history. The glockenspiel provides a lullaby preamble to this song invoking the act of sowing seeds, black nights with glowing stars and the bounty Pachamama can offer.
Carpio’s native Bolivia is a victim of climate change, which has caused extreme heat and water shortages. Her native people have gone to dry lakes to pray for rain that does not come. The situation is dire. And at 74 years old, these are some of Carpio’s last words on the subject. For a more layered understanding of the music, realize that Carpio is one of the most prolific South American indigenous musicians with 26 albums, a career as the Bolivian ambassador to France and a woman who has lived in a patriarchy and has fought for women’s rights and the rights of her indigenous kindred. She is a messenger of social justice, her music an expression of rebellion against destructive Western values over the indigenous respect for nature.
Many of her songs are sung in her native Quechua, which is now a co-official language of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. She grew up on the high plains in Bolivia, where her mother taught her to carefully listen to bird calls and mimic their pitch in order to penetrate the temporal world and converse with Mother Earth. She was told to refine her sound to a pitch as thin as a strand of hair so the earth will receive it. “Ofrenda de los Pajaros" (The Bird’s Offering) is an absolutely gorgeous, atmospheric piece with Carpio mimicking bird calls and asking the spirits for rain.
Padre mi amo has que llueva, has llover,
She has earned the title of "nightingale of the highlands,” because of her high pitched, trilling notes, the language of birds which she brings to her music. “Sumaq Kawsay Mañarimuy (Ask for a Good Life) uses her birdsongs to speak directly to the guardian of rain, Chullupia.
(Bird song sounds), Superior Being make it rain,
Carpio reminds us that “we must mend our relationship to nature before it’s too late.” We live in an atavistic spectacle, where our destruction of the earth against our own well-being diminishes the magnitude and importance of nature. Like an astral projection, Carpio takes us above all this and from this perch she elevates our fears and calls us to a oneness with indigenous values.
“Pachamama desde el Cosmos” begins with an ode to Mother Universe, where she offers praises for a “Fertile land of noble heart.”
“Hacia la Luz” is a wordless piece with Carpio’s humming offering a mesmerizing meditative sound against the backdrop of electronic music provided by the producer Leonardo Martinelli, aka Tremor, an artist dedicated to joining Latin American folk rhythms with modern electronics. His sound is added in a respectful way that elevates and enhances Carpio’s music rather than drowning it out.
In “Requiem Para Un Ego," a critique on modern civilization, she invokes a dead man who did not do right by his people and dies, alone and unremembered. He asks for God to help him but it is too late.
El día que yo me he ido, paloma
“El Retorno del Sol” (The Return of the Sun" is the central song on the album, invoking our interconnectedness with the sun’s golden threads which return each day and provide a fertile feast. And because Tata Inti is a sun god, we can ask here for our heart’s to be cured.
Padre Sol, Divinidad, irradia, resplandece!
The album, which will be accompanied by a full length documentary, was recorded in Zar Estudio in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Carpio wrote all the songs. The electric and acoustic guitar, piano, drum programming, Andean percussion, flutes and Synths are provided by Leonardo Martinelli, and Alex Musatov is the violinist.