By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza
The trutruka and the ñolkiñ
The trutruka, trutruca or xuxuka (a Mapudungu word) is a natural horn which belongs to the Mapuche cultural heritage. This aerophone is similar to the erque from north-western Argentina, the caña chapaca from the south of Bolivia, the tira-tira from Potosí and the clarín from Cajamarca. It is made with a colihue cane whose length may vary from 1.5 to 4 meters, and a cow horn placed at one end. The trutruka, similarly to any other natural horn, has a harsh and guttural sound. This instrument delivers the notes available in the natural harmonic series, however, experienced performers can get more than four or five notes clearly differentiated from one another. The trutruka makers (called "trutrukeros" or "trutruqueros") cut hard and long canes that allow to dry naturally before cutting them longitudinally in half in order to remove the central woody cord. After that, the two halves are tied with a wool thread and wrapped in horse guts, which shrinks after drying and seals the tube. The cow horn, with its tip cut, is place at the thicker end and serves as an amplifier; a diagonal cut is made at the other end to form the mouthpiece.
At present, trutrukas are mostly made of plastic tubes since it is becoming more and more difficult to get colihue canes large enough to make them. However, the most widely spread version of the instrument is not the straight version but the "circular" one, a hose coiled up with a horn attached at one end and a cane mouthpiece inserted at the other.
As the vast majority of the Mapuche instruments, trutrukas are mostly used on ceremonial occasions such as the ngillatun or fertility ritual. They are placed near the altar or rewe, leant against two fork shaped logs, pointing to the east. Their sounds interweave with specific moments of the ceremony: dancers painting themselves, horses being decorated, community leader's pauses while giving his speech, animal sacrifice, etc.
Trutruka performers —those who know the traditional musical repertoire— are called trutrukatufe. In the past they had an active role in the ceremonies and, unlike today, there were lots of them.
The ñolkiñ or lolkiñ was similar to the trutruka but much smaller. It was made with the hollow stalk of a type of cane under the same name, similar to thistle, and a bell made of twisted ñocha leaves. A violent aspiration of air is needed to make the instrument sound, a strange method of execution for a natural horn. It is scarcely used nowadays.
The 16th-century Spanish chroniclers wrote that "trumpets" were played by the "Araucanian" in the battlefield. It is believed that those "trumpets" might well have been shorter trutrukas. Today, "circular" trutrukas can usually be seen in the hands of demonstrators during the Mapuche protests against the ongoing threats to their territory and the systematic repression on the part of the state and its security apparatus.
Video 01. Belarmino Quilquitripai, trutrukas' maker.
Video 02. Trutruka player.
Video 03. Belarmino Kilkitripay, Mapuche music (on the trutruka).
Video 04. Armando Marileo, Lafkenche (Mapuche) instruments builder, playing a ñolkiñ (minutes 15-20).