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History of the Bolivian Andean music
Land of winds > Music > History | Issue 06. Jul.-Aug.2011
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Andean music from Colombia Colombian
Andean music in Colombia

Pre-Hispanic music of Colombia should have had a strong presence in the Andean region of this country, though the only remains found are whistles and shell trumpets. Most of the archaeological instruments such as flutes, quenas (Andean notched flutes), gaitas (duct flutes) and ocarinas, have been found on the Atlantic coast.
Despite a lack of evidence, the work of colonial chroniclers such as Juan de Castellanos (“Historia del Nuevo Reyno de Granada”) allows us to know that Andean peoples such as the Chibcha (Muisca people) of the Boyacá high plateau played “cold and monotonous” songs and had coordinated dances. According to the same source, native musical rhythms would not only have been performed during war-related celebrations and religious festivals, but also while dealing with daily tasks. This author also states that the Chibcha people, as well as their neighbours, would have played flutes, shell trumpets, clay or metallic trumpets and ocarinas, in addition to rattles, maracas, tambores (drums), atabales (kettledrums) and cajas (snare drums).

Muisca, in Wikipedia.
Pre-Columbian times (Colombia), in Wikipedia [es].
Book “La música precolombina” (The Pre-Columbian music), by Luis Antonio Escobar. In “Luis Ángel Arango” Digital Library [es].

As in the rest of the Andean region, the arrival of the Spanish conquerors and the introduction of the African slaves to the present-day Colombia changed the musical and cultural landscape of this country. New instruments, rhythms and languages merged with pre-existing native ones at different grades in different ways, giving birth to the current Andean music repertoire of Colombia.
In order to start looking through this repertoire it is necessary to describe first the main instrumental ensembles that explore most of the regional rhythms.
One of these ensembles is known as the “chirimía”, typical of the southern Andean region (especially of the Cauca department). It includes tambor (drum), redoblante (snare drum), maracas (known as “gapachos”), güiro (percussion instrument with a ratchet-like sound) and two characteristic traverse flutes made of bamboo. This Andean “chirimía” neither must be confused neither with a homonymous ensemble of the Pacific region nor with the instrumental ensembles of the same name, which derive directly from Spanish dulzaina (see below).
The “chirimía” is a formation with deep rural and native spirit, which structure maintains the traditional Andean sets of aerophones and membranophones, besides including African/Caribbean idiophones.

Picture 01. Chirimía 01.
Picture 02. Chirimía 02.
Picture 03. Chirimía 03.
Picture 04. Chirimía 04.
Video 01. Chirimía, Cauca department 01.
Video 02. Chirimía, Cauca department 02.

Another ensemble well known in the Colombian high plateau and the valley of the Magdalena River is the “murga”. It consists of a group of strings, including the tiple (small chordophone of the guitar family), the bandola (small pear-shape chordophone) or the requinto guitar, and the guitar itself. At the beginning these formations used to be tiple and requinto duets. It was not until relatively recent times that they turned into trios and even larger orchestras with the introduction of the rest of chordophones, which may also include percussion and wind instruments (flutes, capadores, harmonicas...).
This ensemble mostly has European characteristics, though it also presents some distinctive features of its Colombian setting.

Article “Bandola, tiple y guitarra: de las fiestas populares a la música de cámara” (Bandola, tiple and guitar: from popular festivals to chamber music), by M. E. Londoño and A. Tobón. In Dialnet [es].

Since colonial times until the XIX century “chirimía” (dulzaina) bands, alongside pífanos (fifes) and tamboriles (tabors), accompanied religious processions.
Besides the already mentioned, there are several other types of ensembles in the Colombian Andes such as the local groups of capadores (panflutes) known as “chiflos” and of harmonicas (locally called “dulzainas”). Nowadays, percussion instruments are present in almost every Andean musical ensemble of Colombia: the alfandoque (similar to a rainstick), the “chuchos” or maracas, the “carraca” or quijada (type of ratchet), and the “carrasca” or güiro, as well as different types of tamboras (like the “chimborro”, drums), panderetas (tambourines) and tambores (drums).
The rhythms most widely spread in the Andean region of Colombia are the bambuco, the torbellino, the guabina, and the pasillo. Their sounds and performance patterns have none or little connection to other rhythms that have been played in the Andes for centuries. That is the reason why they have not been usually considered as “Andean” rhythms.
The bambuco is perhaps the genre/dance that best exemplifies Colombian folklore. This is a 6/8 rhythm played either with strings or flutes, above which octosyllable verses are chanted. It can be heard in most part of Colombia adopting different variants such as the “bambuco fiestero”, the “bambuco sureño”, the “bambuco caucano” or the “bambuco patiano” and different styles like the sanjuanero of Tolima department.
The torbellino, typical of Boyacá, Cundinamarca, and Santander departments is the rhythm accompanying the “baile de tres” (literally, the dance of three), the “baile de la trenza” (the dance of the plait), and many other popular dances performed at religious festivals and family celebrations. It is played with strings, wind and percussion instruments, and on many occasions it is the sound-landscape where traditional coplas and romances float.
The guabina is a rhythm/dance that has spread widely in Andean departments, especially the ones of Santanter and Tolima. Its main characters are stringed instruments and one of its variants is the bunde.
Finally, the ubiquitous pasillo has a lot of variants in Colombia, such as the “pasillo fiestero”, “pasillo de salón”, “pasillo aarriao”, “pasillo arrabatao”, “pasillo voliao”, “pasillo zurrunguiao”, “pasillo toriao”, “pasillo montañero”, “pasillo cantinero”, and “pasillo republicano”.

Bambuco, in Wikipedia.
Torbellino (dance), in Wikipedia [es].
Guabina, in Wikipedia [es].
Pasillo, in Wikipedia.
Bunde Tolimense, in Wikipedia [es].
Video 01. “Mi casta”. Bambuco, by Arboleda y Valencia.
Video 02. Instrumental torbellinos collection.
Video 03. “Guabina huilense”. Guabina, by Garzón y Collazos.
Video 04. “Esperanza”. Pasillo, by Trío Colombita.
Video 05. Bunde tolimense.
Video 06. “El Sanjuanero”. Sanjuanero, by Garzón y Collazos.

Among the Andean rhythms of Colombia there are also the caña of the Tolima department, the carranga (a fusion of rhythms), the porro and the trova of Antioquia, the rumba criolla and the rajaleña. In the department of Putumayo (bordering with Ecuador) the sanjuanito, the albazo, and the huayño may be found. In common with other parts of South America, Colombia has a number of popular rhythms such as the bolero, the contradanza, the danza, the chotis, the walz, the danzón, the mazurca, the pasodoble, and the polka.

Caña (musical genre), in Wikipedia [es].
Carranga, in Wikipedia [es].
Porro, in Wikipedia [es].
Rumba Criolla, in Wikipedia [es].
Rajaleña, in Wikipedia [es].
Video 07. “Caña nº 1”. Caña tolimense, by Dueto Viejo Tolima.
Video 08. Porro from Antioquía department.
Video 09. Rajaleñas collection.

In the early XX century several classic pianists and composers —Emilio Murillo, Adolfo Mejía, Luis A. Calvo, Guillermo Holguín, and Luis Uribe Bueno— began to include bambucos, pasillos, and other national rhythms in their works. At the same time, at schools of music located in major cities and under the guidance of masters such as Pedro Morales Pino and Manuel Bernal, large music groups called “liras” were created (e.g. the Lira Colombiana, the Lira Antioqueña), which in time would be known as “estudiantinas” (from “estudiante”, the Spanish word for student) devoted to perform traditional music.
Between 1930 and 1970, the performance of Andean music in Colombia was basically in the hands of trios (Trio Morales Pino, Trio Joyel) and, above all, of “typical duets”. The latter became real artistic institutions at the time; their repertoires included pasillos and bambucos accompanied by stringed instruments (guitar, tiple or requinto), and were heard nationwide. Best known examples were Obdulio y Julián (the very first couple of “bambuqueros” or bambuco-players in Medellin, 1930-1960), Garzón y Collazos (1940-1977), the Dueto de Antaño (Bustamante and Carrasquilla, 1941-1981), Espinoza y Bedoya (1950-2000), Los Hermanos Martínez (1957-2009), Silva y Villalba (1968-1998), and Dueto Viejo Tolima (Vidales and Ballesteros, 1970-2000).
However, the already mentioned “estudiantinas” (large strings and vocal groups) did not diminish their popularity among the audience. Famous ones were the Estudiantina Colombia, the Estudiantina Bochica, the Orquesta Típica Colombiana and the Conjunto Granadino.

Obdulio y Julián, in Las canciones del abuelo [es].
Garzón y Collazos legacy [es].
Los hermanos Martínez, in Wikipedia [es].
Silva y Villalba: 30 wonderful years [es].
Dueto de Antaño, in Wikipedia [es].
Video 10. “Serenata del campo”. Bambuco, by Obdulio y Julián.
Video 11. “Flor del campo”. Pasillo, by Garzón y Collazos.
Video 12. “Flores negras”. Pasillo, by el Dueto de Antaño.
Video 13. “Asómate a la ventana”. Bambuco, by Espinoza y Bedoya.
Video 14. “Rosalinda”. Bambuco, by Los Hermanos Martínez.
Video 15. “Soy colombiano”. Bambuco, by Silva y Villalba.
Video 16. “El regreso”. Bambuco, by Dueto Viejo Tolima.
Video 17. “Alma Bogotana”, by Conjunto Granadino.

During this long and fruitful period there were a number of outstanding figures such as composers Cantalicio Rojas, Jorge Villamil, Jaime Llano or Luis Carlos González; performers such as Jorge Ariza (a requinto player); and groups such as Jorge Velosa y Los Carrangueros de Ráquira, Los Hermanos Amado or Grupo Occidente.

Cantalicio Rojas González, in Wikipedia [es].
Jorge Villamil Cordovez, in Wikipedia.
Jaime Llano González, in Wikipedia [es].
Luis Carlos González, in Wikipedia [es].
Video 18. “Guabina chiquinquireña”, by Jorge Ariza.
Video 19. “La coscojina”. Carranga, by Jorge Velosa y los Carrangueros de Ráquira.

In the ‘70s, the Nueva Canción (Spanish for “New Song”) arrived at Colombia. Several groups were created under the influence of Chilean bands like Inti-Illimani and Quilapayún, in an attempt to fuse together social denunciation, traditional music and Andean instruments such as the charango, the quena, and the zampoña. Among these groups, Chimizapagua is considered to be the first Colombian band performing “Andean” music.

Chimizapagua, in Radio Nacional de Colombia [es].
Video 20. “La guaneña”, by Chimizapagua.
Video 21. “Cachipay”, by Chimizapagua.
Video 22. “Agualongo”, by Chimizapagua.
Video 23. “Recuerdos de Almaguer”, by Chimizapagua.

Since the ‘90s new sound proposals have appeared in Colombia, ranging from traditional to jazz. It is worth mentioning the presence of groups like Raíces Andinas, Canto Andino, Grupo de Canciones Populares Nueva Cultura or Los Sikuris; vocal and instrumental ensembles such as the Trio Nueva Colombia and Síncopa Cinco (conducted by Germán Darío Pérez), the Trio Palos y Cuerdas, the Plectro Trio, the Atípico Trio, the Guafa Trio and the Grupo Ébano from Medellin; duets like Nueva Gente, Sombra y Luz, or Carmen and Milva; and vocal soloists like Luz Marina Posadas, María Olga Pineros, and Carolina Muñoz (alone or together as members of the group Secreto a voces), Niyireth Alarcón, and Juan Consuegra.

Grupo Canto Andino [es].
Grupo de Canciones Populares Nueva Cultura [es].
Los Sikuris [es].
Trío Nueva Colombia [es].
Trío Palos y Cuerdas [es].
Plectro Trío [es].
Atípico Trío [es].
Grupo Ébano [es].
Video 24. “Río del Encanto”, by Raíces Andinas.
Video 25. “Guabinas”, by Grupo de Canciones Populares Nueva Cultura.
Video 26. “Siembra la vida”, by Los Sikuris.
Video 27. “Vuela más que el viento”, by Trío Nueva Colombia.
Video 28. “Guabina pa’ los palos”, by Trío Palos y Cuerdas.
Video 29. “Florecita del camino”, by Plectro Trío.
Video 30. “Edelma”, by Atípico Trío.
Video 31. “Circunloquio”, by Guafa Trío.
Video 32. “Ojos de cielo”, by Niyireth Alarcón.
Video 33. “A pesar de tanto gris”, by Luz Marina Posadas.
Video 34. “Un tiple y un corazón”, by Juan Consuegra.

Despite modern compositions, fusions with foreign styles and the ongoing search of untrodden paths, the Andean folklore of Colombia remains true to its roots: the old traditional songs, well appreciated popular rhythms and dances portraying Andean rural life. And this dialogue between past and present is precisely what maintains this music (and each its different styles) alive.

Andean music (Colombia), in Wikipedia [es].
History of the South American Andean music in Colombia [es].
Book “El pueblo boyacense y su folclor”, by Javier Ocampo López. In “Luis Ángel Arango” Digital Library.
El Portal de la Música Colombiana (The portal of the music of Colombia) [es].
Bandolitis: El Portal de la Música Andina Colombiana (The portal of the Andean music of Colombia) [es].
Tiple colgado [es].
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