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Kantu Inka: Teaching Peruvian culture through music

A couple dressed in Peruvian traditional clothing play Andean instruments.
Maria Palma
KUNR Public Radio
Carlos Ocampo (left) and Julie Lozada Ocampo play two different types of zampoña at the McKinley Arts and Culture Center in Reno, Nev., on July 13, 2023.

Lea en español.

For more than 20 years, a Peruvian-American couple has been teaching Peruvian culture in northern Nevada through a collection of Andean string, wind and percussion instruments.

On July 13, the Andean folk duo Kantu Inka performed at the McKinley Arts and Culture Center in Reno as part of this year’s Artown programming.

People of all ages danced to sounds of the Andes. For some, like 9-year-old Xander DeDecker, it was the first time they had seen Peruvian instruments, such as zampoñas, quenas and charangos.

DeDecker said his dream is to one day own an animal sanctuary and a bakery in South America.

“I’ve always wanted to go to South America and to save animals. And I’ve always seen pictures and it’s very pretty there,” said DeDecker.

Kantu Inka is composed of the Peruvian-American couple, Carlos Ocampo and Julie Lozada Ocampo.

Julie Lozada Ocampo is a Spanish teacher and Carson City native. In 2003, she traveled to Peru to learn about Andean music and instruments. That's when she met the Ocampo brothers, who are folk musicians.

“As time went on, I said, ‘Antonio and Carlos, do you think you would be interested in coming to the United States, to Nevada, to present live music and culture in Spanish classes?’ And they said, ‘Yeah, let's work on it,’ ” Lozada Ocampo explained.

A duo performing music in front of an audience.
Maria Palma
KUNR Public Radio
Kantu Inka performed at the McKinley Arts and Culture Center in Reno, Nev., on July 13, 2023.

A few months later, the Ocampo brothers arrived at Dayton High School with 13 bags full of Andean instruments and traditional clothing to make their first presentation. Not only did Lozada Ocampo fall in love with the music, she also fell in love with Carlos and they married in 2006.

For Carlos Ocampo, being able to teach his culture has been very rewarding. Their presentations are interactive and fun, he said. Many times, the audience has the opportunity to touch and play the instruments.

“The first impression that we see [in the audience] is that they are quite pleasantly surprised. Some of them have never seen an Andean aerophone instrument,” Ocampo said in Spanish. “The most beautiful thing is that we show the different sizes. Each size has a unique and distinctive sound.”

Kantu Inka plans to continue performing and teaching about Andean instruments, with their next presentation at the Governor’s Mansion on August 11.

Maria joined KUNR Public Radio in December 2022 as a staff reporter. She is interested in stories about underserved communities, immigration, arts and culture, entertainment, education and health.
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