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    Land of winds > Instruments > Instruments | Issue 08 (Nov.-Dec.2011)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Andean aerophones (02): large pinkillos


The pinkillos, pinkullos or pingullos are vertical flutes whose embouchure is similar to that of the European recorder. There are several Andean aerophones of the family known as internal duct flutes grouped under this name. They can be made of cane, wood, metal, plastic, reed, bone and clay. And there are many kinds of these instruments according to sizes, tunings, number of finger holes and the position of the flute’s edge (on the front or back). In all of them, the mouth of the instrument is constricted by a plug (charkauma or tapatira) made of hard wood (alder, tark’o), beeswax or plastic, allowing the player’s breath to travel along the channelled duct cut into that block or fipple. The sound of the flute will vary according to the material, the size, the position and the shape of this mouthpiece.

Some early ethnomusicologists were of the opinion that these instruments would have been brought into the Americas by Europeans. However, consistent archaeological evidence has told another story and the recorders found in archaeological sites throughout the Americas (from Teotihuacan to Tiwanaku) prove their pre-Hispanic origins.

The term was included in the first dictionaries of indigenous Andean languages: it appears as “pincollo” in the “Vocabulario de la Lengua Aymara” by Ludovico Bertonio (1612) and as “pincullu” in the “Vocabulario de la lengua general de todo el Perú” by Diego González Holguín (1608). For his part, Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala depicted these instruments in the plate 123 (page 316) of his “Nueva Corónica y buen gobierno” (1615), and called them “pingollos”.

Pinkillo, in Wikipedia.
Pingollos, in “Nueva Corónica y Buen Gobierno”, by Guamán Poma de Ayala [es].

Picture 01. Pinkillo player.
Picture 02. Triple flutes of Teotihuacán.
Picture 03. Sketch of pinkullo.
Picture 04. Example of pinkillo: Peruvian roncadora.

Video 01. Pinkillada of Potosí.
Video 02. Alma pinkillos.
Video 03. Waka pinkillo.
Video 04. Pinkullo huanchurino (Perú).

Out of the many varieties of pinkillos found in the Andean region, in the following lines we will focus on the tropas or groups of “large pinkillos”, that is, those whose largest size is about one meter long. Owing to their particular features, the tarkas or anatas (which also belong to this family) will not be included in this list. The senqatanqanas and pinkhullus tokhoro will also be left out since they are listed in another section of this issue.

The pinkillos ch’alla are cane flutes native to the region of Colquencha (province of Aroma, departament of La Paz, Bolivia). They are made in one size, about 85 centimetres long, and have 6 finger holes. These instruments are usually played at the Patron Saint’s day, on August 15th and September 14th.


The mohoceños (also written mohoseños, moseños, moceños, moxeños or mojseños) are a tropa of flutes from the canton of Mohoza (province of Inquisivi, departament of La Paz, Bolivia). Today they can also be heard in southern Peru and the Bolivian departments bordering Inquisivi (Oruro and Cochabamba). They are made of cane tokhoro with 5-6 finger holes on the front and 4 extra tuning holes arranged at the bottom of the instrument. And their body is usually secured with wires or leather straps to prevent cane splitting.

The tropa includes four sizes, whose names, tunings and dimensions vary depending on the community: salla, salliba, jatun, bordón or contrabajo (1-1.5 m, 5 finger holes); erazo, mala or bajo (2/3 of the salliba’s length, 6 finger holes); requinto or tarka (half the salliba’s length); and tiple or ch’ili (half the erazo’s length).

The mohoceño salliba is probably the most striking of the tropa. On account of its huge dimensions, it has to be blown through an auxiliary cane pipe 40-70 centimetres long, called paltjata. Apart from that, this is the only aerophone of the pinkillos family that is held horizontally to be played, like a “transverse” flute. The tropa produces harmonies of fifths, fourths and octaves, and instead of by bombos wank’ara it is accompanied by “tambores mohoseños” or “cajas mohoseñadas”, which are similar in structure to the snare drum.

In recent times, the “mohoseñadas” or “moseñadas” (as the groups are known) have incorporated the “chirimiya”, “clarineta” or “clarinete”, a double reed instrument designed for high-register playing, whose sound stands out from the flutes.

Moceño, in Wikipedia [es].
Mohoceños, in Apthapi [es].

Picture 05. Tropa of mohoceños with caja mohoceñada.
Picture 06. Mohoceño players.
Picture 07. Mohoceño salliba player.
Picture 08. Mohoceño maker: close-up.
Picture 09. Mohoceño tiple.
Picture 10. Mohoceño tiple player.

Video 05. Mohoseñada. “Amorcito, perdóname”, by Los Mayjas de Cala Cala (Bolivia).
Video 06. Mohoseñada. “Quien será el que te ame”, by Los Mayjas de Cala Cala (Bolivia).
Video 07. Mohoseñada. “Khochu”, by Moseñada “Provincial Bolivia” de Murmuntani.
Video 08. Mohoseñada. “Arrepentida”, by Moseñada “Súper Líderes” de Olloraya (Bolivia).
Video 09. Moseñada in Carabuco.
Video 10. Moseñada in Entrada Autóctona de Urkupiña.
Video 11. Moseñada.

The pinkillos used in the Quechua communities of Bolivia receive different names depending on the area where they are made and played, some of the most common ones being pinkillo lawato, rollano, malicho, ch’utu pinkillos, khajchas, wistu lautas, malichos, wistu pinkillo, lauta, saripalka, flauta fiesta, and santa bárbara or onrra. They are made out of a branch split down the middle, whose halves are hollowed out and joined together again with beeswax and leather or cattle nerve straps; have 5-6 holes; and their length range from 70 to 110 centimetres. The most valued ones are those that are made in the localities of Falsuri and Vitichi (department of Potosí). They are part of the traditional heritage of different ethnic groups such as the Calchas, the Yuras and the Toropalkas, with a special like for the piercing sound of these flutes played in their highest registers and the use of harmonics.

Ernesto Cavour, in “Los instrumentos musicales de Bolivia”, provides very interesting details about these aerophones. The Calchas (provinces of Nor and Sud Chichas, department of Potosí) use the flute santa bárbara (80 centimetres long) to celebrate the Festival of Santa Bárbara and Christmas (December, 4th and 25th respectively) and, on some occasions, in ceremonies to ask for rain. At Carnival they play the flauta fiesta (70 cm long), the saripalkas or Carnival flutes (1 m long) and the lawatos or malichos (50 cm long); they usually bath the flutes in chicha (fermented maize beer) to tune them. For their part, the Yuras use the rollanos or lautas (70 cm long) accompanied by bombos wank’ara (drums). Finally, the Toropalkas play the saripalkas (1 m long) and the malichos (1/2 m long), in intervals of an octave and accompanied by bombos wank’ara. Up to quite recent times, these types of flute were also used in areas to the west of the province of Jujuy (Argentina), where they were known as “turumas”.

Picture 11. Rollano.
Picture 12. Rollano player 01.
Picture 13. Rollano player 02.
Picture 14. Rollano player 03.

Video 12 (low quality). Carnival in Vitichi (Calcha).
Video 13. Carnaval in Tocloca (Chicha).

In the northern section of the department of Potosí and the bordering areas with the departments of Cochabamba and Oruro, the ethnic groups Layme, Qaqachaca and Macha have a type of pinkillos known under numerous names, such as much’a, turume or torome, machu pinkillo, bajo pinkillo, pinkillo lica, pinkillo jach’a, pinkillo labota and pinkillo k’oro.

They are made out of an elder or balsa tree branch, hollowed out with a hot wire and secured with leather or cattle nerve straps to prevent wood splitting. These flutes are usually played in large tropas, mostly between November and the Carnival.

Even though on rare occasions they can be up to 2 m long, the largest flutes are usually 1.2 metres long and 8 centimetres in diameter, with 6 finger holes. Owing to their dimensions, they also have several tuning holes at the bottom and an auxiliary blowing pipe similar to the senqatanqana: a wooden, tar or mapha (beeswax) plug with a large cane sokhosa embouchure.

The tropa includes the much’a; the mala, malta or jatun q’ewa (2/3 the length of the much’a); the t’ara, sona or varitan (half the length of the much’a); and the ch’ili, uña q’ewa, jisqa q’ewa, chuyma or juch’uy q’ewa (half the length of the mala).

The chajjes (sometimes called “flautas charkas”) are a tropa of pinkillos made out of tree branches, native to the department of La Paz (Bolivia). They are played in Colquencha (province of Aroma), Corocoro (province of Pacajes) and their surroundings. They have 6 finger holes and can be heard between January and the Carnival. The groups comprise 15 or more players; accompanied by bombos wank’ara and horns pututu, they play three different sizes of chajjes: tayka (80 cm), mala (55 cm) and ch’uñi (40 cm).

Chajje, in Let’sGoBolivia [es].

Picture 15. Chajje.
Picture 16. Chajjes.

Video 14. Pinkillos at the Carnival of Macha.
Video 15. “Ch’sisyasun laqhayasun”. Carnaval of Macha (with pinkillos).

In Peru, the “large pinkillos” are called pinkuyllus, and can be found in the department of Cuzco, mostly in the provinces located in the highlands (Canas, Canchis, Espinar and Chumbivilcas). They are up to 90-110 centimetres long and 4 centimetres in diameter. These instruments are made out huaranhuay, huarango or quechuar branches, which are secured with leather straps (to prevent wooden splitting) and covered with llama fat. There are various types of pinkuyllu locally known as Marangani, Orqosi, K’ana, Huch’uy...

Similar flutes are found in Chinchero (province of Urubamba) and Colquepata (province of Paucartambo), where they are called lawata o qaytanu.

Article. “La flûte pinkuyllu des Provincias Altas du Cuzco (Pérou) : organologie et symbolique érotique d’un aérophone andin”, by Raphaël Parejo-Coudert [fr].

Picture 17. Pinkuyllus in Q’eros.
Picture 18. Pinkuyllus of Cuzco 01.
Picture 19. Pinkuyllus of Cuzco 02.

Video 16. Pinkuyllo, by Auténticos Carnavaleros de Chumbivilcas.
Video 17. Tupay Carnaval of Pallpata (Espinar).
Video 18. Pinkuyllu and charango of Canas.
Video 19. Pinkuyllu of Chumbivilcas, in Apulaya.

Last, but not least, the “tokoros and pinkillos” of Juliaca (province of San Román, departament of Puno) are huge flutes played at the Kashua or Qhaswa of San Sebastián (January, 20th), known as the “Carnaval Chico” (“Little Carnival”).

Tokoros and pinkillos of Juliaca, in Noticias de Juliaca [es].

Picture 20. Pinkillo of Juliaca 01.
Picture 21. Pinkillo of Juliaca 02.

Video 20. Qhaswa de San Sebastián 01.
Video 21. Tokoros y pinkillos Machu Aychas de Juliaca.
Video 22. Qhaswa de San Sebastián 02.

Picture A y B: Edgardo Civallero

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