THE CEMETERY SINGER
13 Jun, 2013 | Ryle Lagonsin
Fabián Luizaga’s repertoire consists of various kinds of boleros, huayños , Christian tunes and even waltzes. Among the most popular requests he receives are ‘El Llanto de Mi Madre’, ‘Mi Querido Viejo’ and many other similarly heart-wrenching songs.
Locally, his line of work is known as ‘servicio de canto funebre’. For this guitar-wielding man of the La Paz General Cemetery, singing to the deceased is only one part of the job. Singing for the mourning is, arguably, a more important role he fulfills.
Photo: Ryle Lagonsin
‘These songs make the family cry. When I sing these songs, they remember their loved ones. They think about the person and they cry’, Fabian Luizaga says, laying his guitar on a bench and sitting down. ‘It is important to take out your grief. Do not keep it in, because those bad feelings can have bad effects on one’s health.’
Luizaga is no stranger to death, having seen family and friends of his die through the years from various causes. Singing, he thought, could be a way to help people cope with losing loved ones. It didn’t hurt that the job paid a good sum either. A former police officer, he found the opportunity to make a living off elegies and dirges sixteen years ago on All Saints’ Day. ‘I saw everyone singing at the cemetery’, Luizaga says. ‘It seemed to be a good kind of job’.
Working eight hours a day and earning a monthly average of around 2,100 bolivianos, he is able to support his family with what he gets from this occupation—importantly his 31-year-old daughter, who is studying social communications at university. And although his own singing group, Grupo Nostalgias, performs other song services for many other kinds of occasions, 52-year-old Luizaga sees himself continuing his cemetery job for a very long time.
Photo: Ryle Lagonsin
‘I earn more with this job than in the police. And besides, I have a great faith in God, and I believe I show it by doing this’, he says. ‘I will sing for the families. I will sing for their dead until I no longer have a voice.’