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7. Pandillar in the Jungle Regionalism and Tecno-­cumbia in Amazonian Peru Tecno-­cumbia thumped throughout the neighborhood, its pulsating beats growing louder and louder as we circled the Complejo, a popular tecno-­ cumbia amphitheater in Iquitos. The mood was festive, and young people doused in water and dusted with baby powder and cornstarch lurched out of motokarros (rickshaw motorcycles), tumbling to the ticket booth. We entered the sprawling compound, parked the motorcycle, and made our way to the throngs of people dancing to a Grupo 5 cover. The song faded out and the drummer began a quick-­ paced march beat that elicited screams of delight from the more than two thousand people crammed under the roof of the amphitheater, spilling out into a broad cement courtyard under the stars. The electric drum beat continued and a high-­ pitched, synthesized quena began to outline the familiar melody as the crowd began dancing in long, undulating lines, arms linked. Cornstarch was thrown in the air, falling on squealing dancers, leaving them dusty as it stuck to their sweaty faces. Out in the courtyard, a friend placed an empty beer bottle in the middle of our own group, and the line disintegrated as we formed pairs, skipping forward and backward around the bottle, taking turns “chopping” at the air above the beer bottle with our hands, imagining it was an húmisha, a decorated palm tree used at carnival. We danced, hopping back and forth, eventually coming together in a long line again, weaving around other revelers as they rattled off the rapid-­ fire lyrics to pandilla in unison with the performers on stage. Pandilla is a folkloric genre of the Peruvian Amazon performed traditionally during carnival; during the celebration, community groups erect an húmisha (palm post), encircling it while dancing to pandilla. In recent years, however , electrified pandillas have become common year-­ round thanks to the Iquitos tecno-­ cumbia ensemble Explosión and the group’s widespread popuKathryn Metz Regionalism and Tecno-­cumbia in Amazonian Peru 169 larity among Amazonians. Pandilla has incited regional pride and a desire by many iquiteños to attain a more prominent place in the national imagination. Although Peru boasts three distinct geographic regions (highlands, jungle, and coast), the coastal capital has often disregarded the jungle, relegating it to a “savage” culture good for little beyond interesting flora and fauna and (the equivalent of) “backwoods” villagers. Along with its folkloric musical inheritance, contemporary popular pandilla owes a significant part of its sound to the influence of tecno-­cumbia.1 As Joshua Tucker discusses in this volume, tecno-­ cumbia is an offshoot of chicha , another popular Peruvian genre that dominated the country well into in the 1990s. Though often associated with Lima’s Andean migrant population, its strong, Amazonian roots have earned tecno-­ cumbia significant local and national attention. Its current incarnation in and around Iquitos, in northeastern Amazonian Peru, has firmly represented and even propelled forward the area’s difficult dialogue with cosmopolitanism as the city negotiates the forces of global modernity, attempting to maintain an Amazonian identity while also gaining more comprehensive entrée into the nation’s imagination. In this essay, I introduce pandilla, a current tecno-­ cumbiaized trend with deep folkloric roots, describing how this genre represents a quest for regional cultural autonomy within an integrated national vision. I frame the understanding of contemporary pandilla in conjunction with its development in the tecno-­ cumbia sphere with a consideration of Iquitos’s complex history and cultural identities that have been shaped by transnational influences. I then discuss the basic character of pandilla, examining its history, its musical and poetic character, the context of its consumption, and the importance of indexing indigenous Amazonianness in performance. Pandilla serves as a key connection between the region’s past—molded by colonial dominance—and the present, which is steeped in cosmopolitanism and regional pride as urban Amazonians seek acceptance into the national imagination. Iquitos: From Myth to Metropolis The Amazon has always been considered a formidable territory, hardly penetrated by the Incas during their short and powerful reign (ca. 1400–1532). An unforgiving environment, the jungle presents numerous challenges to the explorer, not the least of which include extreme weather (heat and torrential rains), treacherous topography, difficult mountainous borders, and 170 Kathryn Metz rapid rivers. This hostility of nature has informed past and present views of the forest and, by extension, its inhabitants. In the mid-­sixteenth century the Spanish Crown sent explorers into the jungle in...


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