A Chicago-based musician with Peruvian roots plays a traditional instrument in a modern jazz setting. How many drummers do you see actually playing in the seat they’re sitting on?
We meet Juan Pastor, a local percussionist who imports South American rhythms into the northern hemisphere.
Marc Vitali: Juan Pastor goes from his drums to the cajon without missing a beat.
Juan Pasteur: This is the cajon. It’s an Afro-Peruvian instrument that I grew up playing. Most Peruvians know what a cajon is because many of them are only in houses. It’s quite popular, even for people who aren’t musicians, to have a cajon in their home.
It is a simple instrument. It’s a box, there is a hole here and it is played with the hands. It basically has two sounds, the bass and treble, and it is used for most Afro-Peruvian dances.
Vitali: Pastor grew up in the capital Lima.
Pastor: The first 20 years of my life I learned a lot focusing on Peruvian percussion instruments and how to transfer some of those sounds to the drums.
Vitali: He left Peru to study at Northern Illinois University and DePaul. And he started a group, Chinchano.
Pastor: Chinchano is my tribute, the creation of my music, it’s that influence, it’s who I am now as a person who grew up in Peru and later developed a musical career here in the United States.
Vitali: Pastor is also a highly demanded player who has worked with Kurt Elling and Makaya McRaven.
Music runs in the family.
Pastor: My mother is a Peruvian folk singer and my father is a musician, bassist. One of the main reasons I make music is to have music at home, just like playing everyday.
Vitali: After 13 years in the Chicago area – and student visas, work visas, and artist visas – he’s still trying to get his green card.
Pastor: It’s amazing that it’s still very difficult for someone who, say, has done the right things in terms of paperwork, and it’s still a long process. Even after showing all of these things, the green card process will require a lot of proof from me, things like you have to have a Grammy. So far I don’t have the Grammy yet, I hope this next album cuts it.
Although I love being in Peru and being close to my family, I could say Chicago is my home.
Unfortunately, Juan Pastor has just returned from Lima, Peru, to attend the funeral of his father, Carlos Pastor. He asked us to dedicate this story to his memory.
Pastor is working on a new album. You can follow his work on his website.
His group Chinchano has just announced two concerts:
– Noon, Friday August 6 at the Fourth Presbyterian Church
– 7:30 p.m. Thursday August 26 at the Epiphany Center for the Arts
Follow Marc Vitali on Twitter: @MarcVitaliArts