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History of the Andean music
    Land of winds > Music > History | Issue 09 (Mar.-Apr.2012)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Music of the Aymara communities of Bolivia


Music of the Aymara communities of Bolivia

The Altiplano or Meseta del Collao —the Andean high plateau which stretches from southern Peru through the western part of Bolivia to north-western Argentina and northern Chile— has been the cradle and home of the Aymara people.

The Aymara communities settled in most part of the Andean region of present day Bolivia since pre-Hispanic times. Here flourished several regional chiefdoms (the so-called “Aymara kingdoms”) of Tiahuanaco/Tiwanaku culture descent. Among them it is worth mentioning the Qhara Qhara (Caracara), Charka (Charca), Chicha, Chuwi (Chuy), Killaka-Asanaqi (Quillaca-Asanaque), Karanka (Caranga), Sura (Sora), Lupaqa (Lupaca), Qulla (Colla), Awllaqa (Aullaga), Kana (Cana), Kanchi (Canchi) and Pacaxe (Pacaje).

There were the Aymara people who, according to archaeological evidence, domesticated the potato and other edible tubers traditionally cultivated in the Andes. After being annexed to the Tawantinsuyu (the so-called “Inca Empire”), Quechua-speaking colonies (mitmaqkuna) were established in the region of the Andean valleys preventing the territory from being regarded as belonging to the Aymara (see "Music of the Quechua communities of Bolivia"). From that moment, the Aymara remained settled and consolidated within the actual "boundaries" of their land, which extends from the area surrounding Lake Titicaca, to the Bolivian altiplano and, through successive migrations, to northern Chile and north-western Argentina (where they mixed with local ethnic groups forming a new identity known as the Colla or Kolla people).

The Aymara chiefdoms which occupied today’s Bolivian altiplano were, from north to south, the Colla (not to be confused with the Colla people located in north-western Argentina), the Lupaca and the Pacaje (around Lake Titicaca and in the department of La Paz), and the Caranga, the Quillaca and the Sora (department of Oruro and bordering areas of the departments of Cochabamba and Potosí). As lasting evidence of their presence they left the imposing pukara (fortifications) and their chullpas or burials. Today, unlike what happens with the Quechua ayllus to the east, the distinctive identities of all these Aymara groups have blurred, being lumped into one general Aymara identity whose process of elaboration and meaning-creation has been and continues to be studied with growing interest by a number of authors.


Aymara people, in Wikipedia.
Aymara language, in Wikipedia.
Pre-Hispanic history of Bolivia ("Los Señoríos Aymaras" section), in Wikipedia [es].
Altiplano, in Wikipedia.
Article. "Historia del pueblo aymara" (literally, "Aymara people’s History"), in Aymara Uta [es].
Article. "Los reinos aymaras" (literally, "Aymaras kingdoms"), in Ilcanet.org [es].
Article. "Identidad aymara en San José de Kala" (literally, "Aymara identity in San José de Kala"), by Porfidio Tintaya [es].
Article. "Aymara kingdoms", by Charles Stanish.
Book. "La rebelión permanente. Crisis de identidad y persistencia étnico-cultural aymara en Bolivia" (literally, "The permanent revolt. Identity crisis and Aymara ethnic-cultural persistence in Bolivia"), by José Teijerio [es].


Music of the Aymara communities of Bolivia

There is wide evidence of the presence of musical instruments (both wind and percussion) among the ancestors of present-day Aymara according to archaeological records. Examples of them include the so-called "monolito zampoñero" of Tiahuanaco/Tiwanaku (a monolith representing a panpipe player) and, most of all, in the stone flutes (zampoñas/panpipes, quenas/notched flutes, silbatos/whistles) belonging to pre-Hispanic cultures that were once existing together on the altiplano (Calamuchita, Wijsisa, Chicha), many of which are now exhibited at the Museum of Musical Instruments in La Paz.

The Aymara musical heritage comprises a huge diversity of aerophones. In fact, this heritage makes up a significant percentage of the wind instruments (and the percussion ones that accompany them) native to Bolivia. Likewise, some of the music styles regarded as traditional Andean music are of Aymara origins. In addition, Aymara melodies and beatings have also had an influenced on the development of new Bolivian musical genres such as the huayno paceño, the caporal and the saya.

Among the aerophones most frequently used by Aymara groups (see a complete list in a previous issue) there are zampoñas (sikus de Charazani or k'antus, sikus de Italaque, lakitas, mimulas, jach'a sikus, ayarachis, arachis, tabla sikus, suri sikus and chirihuanos), quenas (pusipías, quena quenas, choquelas and lichiguayos) and pinkillos (kachuiris, tarakhas, koikos, alma pinkillos, waka pinkillos, phunas, chatres, tarkas and mohoseños). For their part, the most popular percussion instruments played to accompany the aerophones include the wankar, bombo k'antu or italaque, the "medio italaque", the wank'ara, the tambor mohoseño or caja mohoseñada, the bombo banda and the caja pinkillada. Finally, the presence of stringed instruments such as the ubiquitous charango, the guitar and the mandolin completes the picture.


Picture 01. Jach'a sikus.
Picture 02. Suri sikus.
Picture 03. Phalawitas.
Picture 04. Lakitas.
Picture 05. Pusipias.
Picture 06. Waka pinkillos.
Picture 07. Tarkas.
Picture 08. Quena quenas.


One of the most widespread forms of playing Aymara music is the sikuri: the performance of rhythms such as huaynos or pasacalles using large tropas or groups comprising varying sizes zampoñas (panpipes). This pattern has given birth to a variety of typically Aymara rhythms and styles such as the sikuri de Italaque, the k'antu, the suri sikuri, the sikuri mimula, the ayarachi, the chiriwano, the arachi and the jach'a siku among many others. Likewise, the playing of other wind instruments has resulted in the waka waka or waka tinti, the tarkeada, the mokolulu and the quena quena.

All these melodies may be accompanied by autochthonous dance performances, where dancers’ steps and moves are part of the Aymara cultural heritage. The most popular ones are the pacochis, the danza qarwani or llamerada, the waka tintis, the kullahuada, the ch'unch'u and the auki auki.


Article. Aymara culture, in Aymara Uta [es].


Picture 09. Pacochis (dance).
Picture 10. Llamerada (dance).
Picture 11. Ujusiri or uxusiri player (low quality).
Picture 12. Waka tinti (dance).
Picture 13. Kullahuada (dance).


Video 01. Sikuris de Italaque, at Taypi Tinaya Festival 2009.
Video 02. Pacochis of Achacachi, at Compi Tauca Festival 2008.
Video 03. Sikuris Mimula, at Compi Tauca Festival.
Video 04. Ujusiris or Uxusiris, in Tiwanaku, La Paz, 2009.
Video 05. Chiriwanus of Patacamaya, 2009.
Video 06. Qarwani, at Compi Tauca Festival 2008.
Video 07. Mokolulu of Aroma, in Santiago de Llallagua 2009.
Video 08. Jacha Siku of Pajchani Molino, in La Paz 2009.
Video 09. Jach'a Tata Danzanti, at Compi Tauca Festival 2008.
Video 10. Quena Quena, in Wilaqala.
Video 11. Tarqueada of Totora.
Video 12. Waka Tinti of Comunidad San Pedro.
Video 13. Arachi of Romero Pampa.
Video 14. Waka Waka of Ayata.


Music of the Aymara communities of Bolivia

As stated above, Aymara sounds have permeated Bolivian Andean music. Both well-known bands with many years of playing experience and local groups have devoted themselves to recovering ancient folklore. Among the former those deserving special mention are Awatiñas and Ruphay, while among the latter the list is much longer: Tarqueada Autóctona de San Pedro de Curaguara, Conjunto 31 de Octubre, Conjunto Autóctono Mallkus Belén de Choquecota, Conjunto Comunarios de Niño Corin, Conjunto Moceñada de Culli Culli Alto, Conjunto Tarqueada Curahuara de Carangas, Jacha Sikuris de Jaya Marka, Qhantus de Quiabaya, Sicuris de Taypi Ayka and Conjunto de Moco Moco. Cultural Centres like Cantón de Italaque, Autóctono Sartañani Wasuru Q'ananpi, Llajtamayu, Mojjsa Uma and Supay Sartañani, among many others, have also played a significant role in promoting this legacy. Since the early 1970s ones and the others have been collecting, performing and re-creating the Aymara traditional repertoire through their works.


Video 15. "Orgullosa", by Tarqueada de Bolivia Calasaya.
Video 16. "Warmi Sua", by Qantus of Niño Corin.
Video 17. "Jacha Sikus", by Comunidad Santiago Marka.
Video 18. "Ponchito de nogal", by Qhantus of Quiabaya.
Video 19. "Qhamana pampa", by Sikuris of Taypi Ayka.


It can be said that somehow most "Andean" ensembles of Chile, Bolivia and Peru play Aymara music, including in their works many traits of this ancient musical heritage adapted to their own styles. This is the case of Boliviamanta (with excellent Aymara tracks on the albums "Wiñayataqui" and "Anata"), Altiplano, Alaxpacha (especially the album "Jichapuniwa"), Tupay, Chuymampi, Fortaleza, Mallku de los Andes, Aruma de Bolivia, Kollahuara, Paja Brava, Rumillajta, Savia Andina, Chuma Q'hantati, Los Jairas, Ernesto Cavour, Grupo Aymara, Grupo Coca, Grupo Khanata, Arawi, Proyección, Los Kjarkas (performing their latest hit song, the k'antu "Munasq'echay"), Aymuray, Ayopayamanta, Andes de Bolivia, Hiru Hicho, Jach'a Mallku, K'ala Marka, Los Yuras, Taypi K'ala, Wara (and their albums named after the numbers in Aymara language), Machaqa Qhantati and Luis Rico.


Video 20. "Karallanta", by Boliviamanta.
Video 21. "Tres rosas", by Alaxpacha.
Video 22. "Ama sua, ama llulla, ama qella" (live), by K'ala Marka.
Video 23. "Esquina tinta", by Chuymampi.
Video 24. "Fiesta aimara", by Wara.
Video 25. "Munasq'echay", by Los Kjarkas.


Picture A | Picture B | Picture C


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