Revisa el siguiente artículo escrito por Sarah Dunn* acerca de la Séptima edición FESTIVAL SELVAMONOS, el cual contó con una semana de actividades culturales y ambientales, talleres, conciertos y espectáculos gratuitos.
La Semana Cultural del Festival SELVÁMONOS en Oxapampa es un momento privilegiado para la expresión del arte y la diversidad cultural en muchas de sus formas, y la celebración de la naturaleza, abre nuevos espacios descentralizados de encuentro entre los artistas y el público, tanto local como foráneo.
With art projects at the site and a calender of events leading up to the tunes, it is clear that SELVÁMONOS is not just a music festival. Instead, the festival’s website describes itself as an ambitious “cultural project,” in which the primary goals of the festival include decentralizing and democratizing access to cultural events and art to everyone throughout Peru, to promote tourism in the city of Oxapampa and communicate the importance of protecting the community’s culture and their natural regions.
In fact, a week before the festival the SELVÁMONOS staff organizes “Semana Cultural,” a week of free concerts and cultural activities for the general public in Oxapampa for the five days proceeding the festival. This includes outdoor movie screenings, a play inspired by the river, and several free concerts. Of course, with most of the festival’s attendees arriving Thursday or Friday, it was actually the native Oxapampans who truly got to enjoy the benefits of SELVÁMONOS before their pueblo was infiltrated by the hippies and hipsters heiling from the bigger cities for the weekend festivities.
This was the seventh year of SELVÁMONOS, which offers music, alternative art, and environmental projects, a cultural week for the residents of Oxapampa. It is a festival of music and alternative art in the middle of the forest. It also attempts to inform the attending public of enviromental projects taking place in and around the area. For instance, the Friday night before the festival began, early festival goers gathered to hear several presentations about how Peruvians are working to conserve their natural environment.
Tini, for example, worked to create community gardens specifically for children. They promote education of agriculture, supporting kids gardens in corners of apartments and in alleyways between buildings. Throughout the year, they also organize Electroselvamonos and Primera Parada.
Having arrived on Friday morning, this was the first event I was able to attend. Friendly SELVÁMONOS staff ushered me into the conference room on the second floor of the municipal center, which sits on the edge of the main plaza. Several young twenty-somethings made presentations about their lifestyle of conservation, usually involving ecotravel and other outdoor activities. The lectures provided insight to how many are attempting to perserve the wonderful wildlife and landscapes that make up Peru, amidst a rapidly developing culture. Then, they showed a string of promotional videos that encouraged residents of lesser known areas in Perú to tell the story of their home. Residents close to the featured sights like conservario nacional, el jardín botánica, and Santuario Pampa Hermosa held up chalk signs with inspirational quotes, such as “nature is good for the spirit.” After the promotional videos, a woman began discussing the impact of climate change on children. She mentioned staggering numbers for the culture of childhood, such as many American children know over 100 corporate markers, but can’t name more than 10 different species of palnts.
To combat this lack of education, TINI works to provide land for kids and young people in general. In photos, kids planted a pot for them, for others, and for the environment, teaching them how to give back to the same land they took from. They explained several projects they had finished in the past year, such as a school yard in Callao that was changed from a dirty patch of concrete to a beautiful and blossoming garden. Finally, they thanked Selvámonos for making a generous donation and providing a children’s garden in Oxapampa.
But of course, everyone truly came for the party on the weekend, and this was clear in the atmosphere at Oxapampa’s main plaza on Saturday morning. Because of the futbol game, the music would not be starting until later than 5, so everyone fidgeted with beers in hand or at the stalls of Peruvian food set up at a corner of the plaza where locals fed newly arrived guests.
I arrived at the festival grounds at 2 p.m. and was surprised at how many activities were available before the music began: in one corner of the green valley surrounded by mountains was a rock wall, while another area next to the “Selvabar,” offered slacklines that were set up for professionals and newbies alike. Between the two stages and the tent for electronic music was a line of food stands, offering cones of french fries, Oxaburgers, Choripan (Chorizo sandwich), lomo salteado sandwiches, and even a stand for coffee. The food, beer, and clothing stands all traded their items for selvacocos, the currency of Selvamonos that traded one real dollar for one selvacoco. Which, frankly, was much more of a hassle as it was yet another line between me and the music. Plus, I lost a few soles by losing the tiny selvacocos in the abyss of my backpack, finally finding them long after the festival’s end.
The first thing you notice about the festival is the atmosphere. Everyone is as happy as you are to have escaped the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives, even for a short time. Positivity exudes out of every smiling face you pass, and the clear blue sky above you hosts the suns rays, a rare siting in the middle of winter. As eager attendees played like children at the rock wall and on the slack line, the Latin Americans made themselves known when a crowd gathered with beers in hand at one of the stages where the futbol game was shown on a jumbo screen.
The second thing you notice is the diversity. Unlike the music festivals of the states in which the uniform is high waisted shorts and culturally appropriated feather crowns, Selvamonos was a bit different. The crowd was a mix of native Peruvians and foreigners alike, many heiling from the bigger cities of Peru, while others were passing through on their way to Bolivia. Families were welcome, and children (along with their accompanying adult) were even offered free admission before 3pm. Entertainment for kids was also available throughout the festival, including a circus performance, outdoor plays, volleyball and other ball games, and painting stations.
Like the people of the festival, the music was hard to define or categorize into one single definition. They were fusion bands that defied well-known adjectives. They drew from salsa, ska, rock, raggae, cumbia, indie, pop, electronic, and more. Basically, whatever your taste is, you were able to find something here.
After the Copa América game ended, the festival truly began. Lucho Quepuezana started off the night. Luckily, the staff of Selvamonos had organized the time slots so that a band would perform at the main stage, and the band at the second stage would start just minutes after the other stage ended, so audiences spent the night jumping from one stage to the other, with little lag time in between the live music, and no need to miss out on seeing a band because of conflicting acts.
Teenagers from Oxapampa and surrounding pueblos flooded in through the entrance as soon as the sun set. Niño Cohete, an international artist from Chile, was one of the long awaited headliners of the festival. But the real magic occurred when Real Revolutionary Sound System, better known as RRSS, began. Mambo Glacial followed, Amén played Peruvian rock after that, then Gypsy Sound System Orkestra– four hours of perfect performances. Meanwhile, the Help! dome offered and artful mix of cumbia and electronic dance. The remixed cumbia and regaeton was perfected for everyone who wanted more of a club experience, and I’m positive certain electro fanatics didn’t leave the tent all weekend. With DJs scheduled from 6pm to 4am, they didn’t have to.
Sunday morning arrived earlier than the campers were ready for, with spontaneous drum circles and quick sound checks booming through the crisp air at early hours of the morning. Meanwhile, other attendees scrambled to find more cash in a pueblo with three ATMs, all of which seemed to have run out of cash sometime Saturday, or looking to find cheaper food and beer outside of the festival gates. The one sound check of Cristina Valentina, however, lingered in the minds of many later on in the evening.
According to everyone I had asked in the crowd of people huddling together to see her performance, they had no intention of seeing her until they heard her angelic vocals float into their tent earlier that morning. Luckily, her real performance did not dissappoint. She exemplified her range quickly, and everyone was instantly enamored. Halfway through her performance she threw out free CDs, and everyone scrambled to the front to be one of the lucky few. Her lyrics, both in English and Spanish, feel like butter for your ears when sung from her lips.
Perhaps because it was Sunday, the floods of Oxapampan teenagers who arrived the day before did not return for Sunday, making for a quieter and more low key atmosphere, the likes of which many attendees were probably hoping for. It also added to the variety one was able to experience over the weekend, from a crazy Saturday night in the packed crowd dancing with strangers, to a cozy Sunday curling up by the bonfire. Francois Peglau was one of the most surprising highlights of the entire festival. They were a large band, with musicians playing guitar, saxophone, trumpet, drums, and bass. While the little known band didn’t draw the biggest corwd at the beginning, their pop dance tunes were infectious, resulting in what seemed like the entire festival flocking to catch the remaining songs. Of course, that could also have to do with the acrobatic dancer that performed with a ribbon hanging from the stage beam.
Chuchillazo was next, and a completely different vibe from their predecessors. They were a heady rock band, loud for the sake of it. They were too heady for my taste, and too much of a different feel than the pop cumbia that came before it. Invásion Ashaninka quickly followed though, and exceeded my expectations. In orange robes and feathered headbands they played traditional cumbia. Named after the second largest indigenous group in the Peruvian amazon, they were a great reminder of where we were.
La Mecánica Popular played energizing psychedelic salsa music with a plethora of percussion instruments. Los Tetas drew a huge crowd, and drew cheers as they invited friends onstage to rap with them. Mexican artist Celso Piña delivered tunes with his signature accordian player, along with a backup band including drums, and someone expertly banging on what looked like a tin can.
For the moments of the festival I wanted some piece and quiet, I could enjoy the well lit instillations, such as the toucan head three times my height. For the moments it got a bit too chilly to stand and sway to the music, I’d join others at the communal firpit, where drunk hipsters would occasionally poke at the fire, and where you could find the friends you lost a few hours earlier.
A few days after everyone had endured the eleven hour bumpy bus ride back to Lima, and after enough time passed that nostalgia had already crept into the minds of attendees, Selvamonos offered its last event in the string of 2015 festivities. Called the SELVÁMONOS afterparty, hoards of attendees and unfortunate hipsters who couldn’t make the actual festival gathered at the event held on Thursday, July 2, at Help! in Barranco. I recognized many new friends I had made during musical acts or while standing in the bathroom line. The event invites acts that played over the weekend back to perform at Help!.
Mambo Glacial performed in their typical white attire while the audience danced salsa, drank, and caught up with new friends. Elegante & La Imperial performed next, with DJ Alan Malcolm spinning between sets and rounding the night off after the live performances. On the sweaty dance floor I could feel a shared sense of something, a longing to be back in the heaven of Oxapampa or, more specifically, to be immersed in the magic of Selvamonos once again.
* Sarah Dunn is a writer, photographer, and actor who explores the intersection of politics and art. She has published several articles and makes short films in her spare time.
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