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Andean instruments Andean music
Land of winds > Instruments > Instruments | Issue 03. Jan.-Feb.2011
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Chaski Guaman Poma de Ayala
Andean aerophones: History (2)

Andean wind instruments have a very long history, as prehistoric remains of simple flute, horn and whistle-like instruments have been found in regions inhabited by ancient cultures (see “Andean aerophones: history (1)”). The most detailed account of the sound elements of a pre-Hispanic society refers to the Incas. Written records by Spanish chroniclers (and the mestizo writers of Incan descent who followed the former) tell us much that might not be known from archaeological evidence alone, since it is possible to learn from them not only about the flutes, but also about the celebrations, the dances and the songs accompanied by the music of these instruments.
The first dictionaries of native languages, one in Quechua by Diego González Holguín (1608) and the other in Aymara by Ludovico Bertonio (1612), were one of the best tools to describe Andean native organology. The former contains terms that designate wind instruments (i.e. “qquepa” or horn, “pincullu” or flute, “antara” o panpipe), dances, types of songs and singers. In the latter Bertonio mentions “qhuepa” and “pincollo” too, but also includes “sico” and “ayarichi” (panpipes) or particular types of vertical flutes such as “cchaca pincollo” (bone flute) or “quenaquena” (cane flute).
When talking about music, chronicles and literary works move one step further providing more details and all sorts of additional information. Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, in his famous “Nueva Corónica y Buen Gobierno” (ca. 1615), dedicates several chapters to the celebrations of the four “provinces” or regions into which the Tawantinsuyu or “Inca Empire” was divided:
“CAPÍTVLO PRIMERO DE LAS FIESTAS, PASQVAS y dansas taquies de los Yngas y de capac apoconas y prencipales y de los yndios comunes destos rreynos, de los Chinchay Suyos, Ande Suyos, Colla Suyos, Conde Suyos. Los quales dansas y arauis no tiene cosa de hechisería ni ydúlatras ni encantamiento, cino todo huelgo y fiesta, rregocixo. Ci no ubiese borrachera, sería cosa linda.
Es que llama taqui, cachiua, haylli, araui de las mosas, pingollo de los mosos y fiesta de los pastores llama miches, llamaya y de los labradores pachaca, harauayo, y de los Collas, quirquina, collina, aymarana, de las mosas, guanca, de los mosos quena quena.
En estos huelgos que tienen cada ayllo y parcialidad deste rreyno no ay que dezille nada ni se entremeta ningún jues a enquietalle a los pobres sus trauajos y fiesticillas y pobresa que hazen cantar y baylar, comer entre ellos”.

[“First chapter of the celebrations, Easter-like celebrations and dances, taquis of the Incas, capac apocona, leaders and common Indians of this kingdom, those from Chinchaysuyo, Antisuyo, Collasuyo and Condesuyo. The dances and arauis [festive songs] have no sorcery, idolatry or incantantions, but rather enjoyment and festival. If there were no drunkenness, these affairs would be most enjoyable.
These are called taqui, cachiua [choral songs], haylli [farmer’s chants]; girl’s araui [narrative songs]; boy’s pincollo [dance with small flutes]; herdman’s celebrations, llama michic, llamaya [herder’s songs], pachaca harauayo [farmer`s songs]; and those of the people of Collasuyo –quirquina, collina, aymarana-; of the girls, uanca [girls’ songs]; of the boys, quena quena [dance with cane flutes].
Every ayllo, lineage, of this kingdom have these festivals. No one should say anything nor should any judge interfere with the work these poor people do for their enjoyment as they get together to sing, dance and eat”].
This author even dares to advance the lyrics of many songs in Quechua, and his pages mention up to ten Inca instruments such as the “pipo” (long cane flute) and the “chiuca” (skull trumpet). In addition he makes some really wonderful illustrations full of details, for instance, that of the conch horns used by the chasquis or highly-trained runners who delivered messages and other objects throughout the Inca Empire. Poma de Ayala also takes this opportunity to ask colonial authorities neither to condemn these musical expressions nor to interfere in the celebrations and judge too harshly those taking part in them.
Bernabé Cobo, in his “Historia del Nuevo Mundo” (1653), refers to the “quenaquena” and the “churu” (conch trumpet), and identifies a good number of percussion instruments when talking about how people lived in the Tawantinsuyu.
The Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, in the 26th chapter of his “Comentarios Reales de los Incas” (1609), explains the music performed on flutes in the Inca territories as follows:
“Tuvieron flautas de cuatro o cinco puntos, como las de los pastores; no las tenían juntas en consonancia, sino cada una de por sí, porque no las supieron concertar. Por ellas tañían sus cantares, compuestos en verso medido, los cuales por la mayor parte eran de pasiones amorosas, ya de placer, ya de pesar, de favores o disfavores de la dama.
Cada canción tenía su tonada conocida por sí, y no podían decir dos canciones diferentes por una tonada. Y esto era porque el galán enamorado, dando música de noche con su flauta, por la tonada que tenía decía a la dama y a todo el mundo el contento o descontento de su ánimo, conforme al favor o disfavor que se le hacía. Y si se dieran dos cantares diferentes por una tonada, no se supiera cuál de ellos era el que quería decir el galán. De manera que se puede decir que hablaba por la flauta”.

[“They had flutes with four or five stops, like those of shepherds. These were not for use together in consort, but played separately, for they did not know how to harmonize measured verse and were mostly concerned with the passions of love, its pleasure and pain, and the favor or coldness of the beloved.
Every song had its known tune, and they could not sing two different songs to the same tune. This was because the lover who serenaded his lady with his flute at night told her and everybody else of the pleasure or sorrow produced by her favour or coldness by means of the tune he played, and if two different songs had had the same tune, no one would have known which he meant. One might say that he talked with his flute”].
Bartolomé Arzáns de Orsúa y Vela, in his “Historia de la Villa Imperial de Potosí” (ca. 1555) describes the ayarichi, a variety of panpipe that is still used today in Bolivia:
“[Tocan] unos cañutillos aunados duplicadamente, que siendo mayor el primero van disminuyéndose hasta el último que es pequeñito, y soplando de cabo a otro hace la armonía conforme el tamaño de la caña, y llaman a este instrumento ayarichi”.

[“[They play] some double-rowed tubes graded in size from largest to smallest, which when blown emit sounds ranging from low to high depending on the size of the tube, and they call this instrument ayarichi”].
As stated in the previous paragraphs, there were numerous written testimonies. Sometimes, dances, flutes, drums and rattles were dealt with in passing; on other occasion, however, authors provided carefully documented and detailed descriptions. Most colonial texts were written from a European perspective and some of them even branded native customs as “brutal” or “idolatrous”. On the contrary, a few chroniclers expressed their astonishment and delight at the beauty of the sounds that both instruments and performers were able to create.
Contemporary archaeological and ethno-musical researches reveal that most of the present-day Andean aerophones derive from the flute-like instruments used in the ancient Tawantinsuyu and, therefore, allow us to imagine, more or less accurately, what these instruments were like and how they might have sounded in past times. In such studies, the writings by colonial chroniclers play an essential role. These sources provide convincing evidence that current panpipes, quenas, horns and pinkillos are intimately related to those found at burial sites or depicted on pottery items. It won’t be far wrong to say that colonial chronicles are part of the history of Andean aerophones: its first written chapter.
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