Sonia Trujillo, barrel-organ player.
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Home/Stories and articles/People
December 2001

Sonia Trujillo:
The woman of the barrel-organ

All across Chile, there are only two female barrel-organ players.Sonia Trujillo is one of them.

By Rosario Mena


All across Chile, there are only two female barrel-organ players. Two housewives that, inspired by their husband or relatives' example, have adopted this traditionally masculine job, going out to the streets with their instruments and extending their work on this art beyond the home-making of balls and horns. Sonia Trujillo is one of them: "I think there's two of us in the whole world, because I've never heard of others", she says laughing. "We started with this as intruders".

A brother-in-law and a brother took Sonia's husband to become a player twenty seven years ago. Besides working in her house in San Bernardo, making toys, she used to help her husband with the sales. After two decades, she took her own barrel-organ. A delicate instrument, more than a hundred years old, that requires care, maintenance and a thorough daily cleaning.

"I clean it every time I go out, before and after using it", she says. The regular checking, Sonia makes it at master's Manuel Lizama, an expert on repairs and restorations. "It's all about loving your instrument. If you love it, you care for it".

At her 42 years of age, now mother of four kids, one of the things this woman most appreciates about her job is the freedom it gives her: "Nobody gives you orders. At least I work only on the weekends, and at the times I want. Sometimes, the kids would come with me. I go to Las Condes, Vitacura, Providencia. It may also be a birthday or wedding... During the week I take care of the kids and the house. Every Friday we prepare all together the things for the barrel-organs".

The eight original tunes stored on the cylinder, include old Spanish songs, Mexican "corridos", "cuecas" and tangos. "Believe it or not, some people know the tunes and ask for them. Last year at the beach, a 14 year-old kid asked me to play 'La españolita' and 'La Leonora'".

In spite of the solitude moments when nobody comes, Sonia feels rewarded. "There are days when nobody would come in an hour, and you have to keep on playing. Then you start making money. Sometimes, it's the other way round: people come at first, but then leave. It depends. But if you like it, you see no sacrifice. Besides keeping a tradition, because this is one of Chile's most typical things. So I relax, I get away from the week's stress. Sometimes people dance, or sing. Then I think I'm doing good".

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