Land of winds. Digital magazine on Andean music. Header picture
Andean rhythm Andean music
Land of winds > Rhythms and styles > Rhythm | Issue 02. Sep.-Oct.2010
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza


The Andean rhythm known as k’antu originated in the region of Charazani (Bautista Saavedra province, La Paz department, Bolivia), an area mostly inhabited by the minority Kallawaya ethnic group and several Quechua-speaking groups. The term k’antu (qanto, qantu, k’antu, khantu or kantu) refers not only to the rhythm but also to the panpipes and drums with which it is performed, the musicians who play those instruments and the dance that accompanies the music (see). In addition, the very same word designates the wank’ara drums that outline the basic rhythm. The term might derive from a deformation of the Spanish word “canto” (singing, song) or from an adaptation of khantuta, the Quechua name for wild Madonna lily.
The k’antu is a rhythm with a strong pre-Hispanic accent, which might have developed from Inca dances. It is slow, solemn and ceremonious and one of its characteristic features is the rest that closes every musical phrase. This rhythm is performed by a ensembles of 20-30 panpipes (these flutes being named phukuna at Charazani), several wank’ara or bombo k’antu, large double-headed drums, and a chiñisk'u or triangle made from a bent bar of metal. Each panpipe consists of two halves arka and ira, which are performed separately. These halves have an additional row of pipes, open at both ends and of the same length as the pipes forming the principal row, which work as resonators — when the stopped pipe of the main row is blown, its additional pipe also sounds. Seven different sizes make up the whole group of panpipes: from the largest to the smallest they are called toyo, sanka, malta, bajo malta, alto malta, p’ulu and suli. When sounded together, they combine with each other in intervals of fourths, fifths and eights to produce a particular harmony.
When performing this rhythm the musicians are also dancers. Many of them dance and blow their half of the phukuna with their left hand while beating with the right the wank’ara they carry over their left shoulder.
The k’antu has spread along the banks of Lake Titicaca, reaching the region of Puno in Peru, and has reached places where large waves of Bolivian migration have settled all around the world. Together with the sikuri of Italaque, the jula julas and the chiriguanos, it is one of the best known pre-Hispanic Bolivian rhythms and, perhaps, the most imposing and majestic one thanks to its powerful percussion and low-pitched panpipes tones.

[Picture 01] [Picture 02]

Kantu, in Wikipedia.
Article. “The Kantu ensemble of the Kallawaya at Charazani (Bolivia)”. Max Peter Baumann.
Song. Inkuyo. “Tierra Callawaya”.

Video 01. Khantus.
Video 02. Comunidad Ayni. Khantus.
Video 03. Carnaval en Oruro (Bolivia). El Kantu.
Video 04. Centro Cultural de los Andes (Andean Cultural Center). Sinfonía los Andes: Khantus sagrados (Andean Symphony: Sacred Khantus).
Video 05. Llajtamayu. At the Jisk’a Anata carnival, year 2000. Kantu.
Disclaimer of Land of windsEditorial staff of Land of winds