Land of winds. Digital magazine on Andean music. Header picture
Andean instruments Andean music
Land of winds > Instruments > Instruments | Issue 01. Jul.-Aug.2010
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Quena quenacho kamacheña Andean instruments Andean flutes
Andean instruments

The history of Andean musical instruments dates back to the first human settlements in the region. There is archaeological evidence to support the presence of flutes, whistles, trumpets, panpipes and idiophones in such ancient cultures as Chavín, Nasca, Vicus, Wari, Chancay, Paracas, Mochica/Moche and Inka (Peru); Arica and Atacama (northern Chile); Tiahuanaco/Tiwanaku and Chichas (Bolivia); Tilcara, Santa María and Yocavil (north-western Argentina); Nariño, Calima andTairona (Colombia) and Cuasmal, Tuncahuan, Carchi, Tumaco-La Tolita and Chorrera (Ecuador), among many others. It is generally accepted that pre-Columbian cultures did not know string instruments and based their musical repertoire on wind and percussion instruments. It is also believed that in those early times each culture would have had a large number of non-tempered scales.
Andean instruments will be organised according to Hornbostel-Sachs classification that arranges them into a particular structure consisting of four different groups: aerophones (wind instruments), chordophones (string instruments), membranophones (percussion instruments with membrane or patch) and idiophones (the remaining instruments of percussion).
Andean aerophones are, perhaps, the largest and most interesting family, considering Andean instrumentstheir age and some of their most relevant characteristics. One of them is their performance style forming tropas, large ensembles including most male community members (up to 50-60 players, sometimes joined by groups of dancers). Those tropas bring together several sizes of the same instrument, what allows performing the melody in parallel scales, creating harmonies (usually fourth-, fifth- and octave-based) that lend a particular sparkle to the final sound. Although less in number, there are also several aerophones which are performed solo. In ceremonial contexts there seems to be a connection between these instruments and such values as fertility, fruitfulness or rain, and may or may not be of some help depending on their sound quality.
Zampoña siku panflute panpipe Andean instruments Andean flutesAmong Andean aerophones there are different subgroups. In first place stand out the panpipes (zampoñas, sikus, phusas) that form one of the largest and most important Andean music ensembles. Remarkable examples are the sikus ch’allas (standard panpipes that according to canes size are called chuli, malta, zanka and toyo) and the italaques, chiriguanos (or chiriwanos), ayarichis, ayarachis, jula julas, sikus k’antu or sikus of Charazani, pusamorenos, kalla-machus, suri sikus, tabla sikus, lakitas (or laquitas), mimulas, jach’a sikus, pallas, antaras, piloilos, rondadores and capadores.
Another outstanding subgroup is the one consisting of notched flutes (quenas, kenas, khenas or qenas, see), where there is place for both “professional” flutes and their many traditional variants: pusipías, quena quenas, choquelas, karhuanis, quenas yuras and viticheñas, ujusiris, lichiguayos (or lichiwayus), kamacheñas, quenillas, quenalis, quenachos and the famous manchay puytu.
Horns and trumpets are also part of the large family of wind instruments. This third subgroup includes pututus, wajras (huajras, waqras), erkes (erques, cornetas, cañas chapacas), chujllas, the tira tira, the wayllaqhepa, the Ecuadorian bocina, the wajra phuku and the Mapuche kullkull, trutruka and ñolkiñ (or lolkiñ).Pinkillo moxeño mohoseño moseño Andean instruments Andean flutesBelonging to the pinkillos subgroup (pinquillos, pincullos o pinguyos), it is worth mentioning the most traditional ones: kachuiris, tarakhas, koikos, karhuanis, phunas, wiphalitas, lajha pinkillos, sorejayas, waka pinkillos, pinkillos lulu and chatre, mukululus, marimachos and huaycheños, the alma pinkillo, the Ecuadorian pinguyo, rollanos, much’as and toromes, tokhoros, chullu-chullus and chajjes, tarkas and anatas (potosinas, salinas, curaguaras and ullaras), mohoceños (salliba, erazo, requinto and tiple according to their size from the largest to the smallest), huge senqatanqanas (pinkhullus, tokhoros) and toromes or lautas.tarka anata Andean instruments Andean flutesAlthough present in lower numbers, transverse flutes make up another subgroup of Andean aerophones. Good examples are phalas, pitos and chirimías, the Mapuche pinküllwe and the phalahuitas. Finally, among whistles there are ocarinas, the wauko, the wislulu, the pirijcho, the chululu, jantark'is (jantarques) and the Patagonian pifilka (or pifüllka).
In addition to these native instruments, many wind instruments with a European root are also performed in the Andes, such as the harmonica, the accordion and the various instruments comprising the “banda de cobre” or brass band (saxophones, trombones, trumpets and tubas).
Andean membranophones, as their wind equals, have a very long history. bombo wankara wankar huancara Andean instruments Andean drums Andean percussion Even though there is scarce archaeological evidence, their presence in both pre-Incan hand-painted ceramics and early Hispanic illustrated chronicles suggests that they were used long time ago (the drawings by Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala are a wonderful example of the latter). An indispensable accompaniment for traditional aerophones tropas and modern ensembles and comparsas (large group of dancers dancing and traveling on the streets, followed by musicians playing) alike, their deep and booming sound is said to have a strong connection with the earth, which would indicate the association of these instruments with telluric forces.
Remarkable traditional examples are the wankar or bombo k’antu, the wank'ara (wankara or medio italaque), the tinya, the tambor, the bombo legüero, the caja mohoseñada, the caja chayera (with many variant forms), the tamboras de saya (in various sizes), the bombo tundiqui, the timpani, the bombo banda, the bombo zamba, the cajita chapaca, the caja pinkillada, the Chipayan caja triangular and caja cuadrada, the snare drum or tarola and the Mapuche kultrun and caquekultrun (or kakülkultrún).
Later on, percussion instruments with a Latin root (congas, bongos) broadened the Andean membranophones’ range, together with those used by European bands and orchestras and also the ones played by rock, jazz and reggae groups.
String instruments form the third class and, with the exception of some musical bows, were almost unknown in the Americas until the Europeans’ arrival during the XV century. Inspirated by lutes, vihuelas, violins, rebecs and harps brought to America by conquerors, a number of adaptations were to be developed, which would give birth to the original universe of Andean strings with the charango sparkling high in the sky. charango Andean instruments Andean string instruments
Considering all its different variant forms (charango sacabeño, vallegrandino and anzaldeño, rankha charango, walaycho, khonkhota or q'onq'ota, maulincho, chillador, uñancha) and its many adaptations (guitarrilla potosina, guitarrón vallegrandino, medianas), the charango is one of the most spread instruments along the Andean range. However, there are a number of others chordophones worthy of attention such as the Chilean guitarrón, several violins (chicheño, andino, vallegrandino), the harps (Chilean, huanca), mandolins, bandolines and bandurrias, the tiple, the guitar and its variant forms (Chicheña guitar, Chipayan guitarrilla), the requinto and one of the very few Andean musical bows: the Mapuche kinkulkawe.
The fourth and last group, the idiophones family, consists of any element which produces sounds that are musically or rhythmically useful. Attending to this broad explanation any ordinary tool, from spoons to a pair of scissors, can become an idiophone. Their variety is extraordinary: wak’allos, maracas, metal hawk bells, cowbells, bells, little bells, sticks, rainsticks, stick rattles, matasuegras (not the party blower but a type of ratchet), spoons, knives, scissors, spears, arrows, pods, bows, whips, paichachis, the triangle (chinisco or chiñisk'u), the big reco-recos or güiros played when dancing the saya, the gallu gallus or spurs used in Tarabuco (Bolivia) for the pujllay festival, ratchets, rattles, chaquiras, the chajchas (hoof rattles), the sistro, the Mapuche kaskawilla (or cascahuilla) and the trompe or mouth harp (Jew’s harp).
matraca recoreco güiro Andean idiophones Andean instruments Andean percussionFinally, it is worth noticing that Andean instruments retain their original forms in many indigenous and rural communities of the Andes. On the other hand, in urban and mestizo areas those instruments have been changed and adapted in many different ways (shape, size, tuning, material, uses) what, instead of becoming a problem, has enriched the astounding diversity of sounds existing in this part of the world. And it is precisely this diversity what best explains the core of Andean music.

Pictures by Edgardo Civallero. Top to buttom: details of quena quenas; siku ch’alla ("zanka" size) and wankara; "tropa" of sikus ch’alla (sizes: zanka, malta and chuli); detail of mohoseños "tropa" (sizes: sallliba, iraso and requinto); "tropa" of tarkas salinas and kurahuaras; detail of wankara drum head; charango; chajchas, matraca and reco-reco.
“Sonidos de América”, in Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art [es].
“Música de la vida”, in Luis Ángel Arango Library [es].
“La música precolombina”, in Luis Ángel Arango Library [es].
Disclaimer of Land of windsEditorial staff of Land of winds