By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza
One of the oldest musical and choreographic expressions in the department of Puno (south of Peru) are the ayarachis (the term's etymology suggests that it derives from the Quechua word aya, "dead body, corpse"). In general, both the music and the dance associated with this ancient sikuri style have been described as "of funereal character". Likewise, traditional legends which have to do with it (the ritual of death of the Inca) have mournful tints. It is believed to have origins in the province of Lampa, in the Quechua region of Peru's highlands, though it is also present in the Taquile and Amantani islands (Lake Titicaca); the yungas region in the province of Sandía; the province of Carabaya (to the east of Puno department); and in the northern province of Chumbivilcas (department of Cuzco).
Maybe the best examples of ayarachis ensembles come from the district of Paratia (Lampa), well known for their solemn sound, the stately charm of the dance and their opulent attire.
Ayarachis ensembles ranges from 12 to 16 members, each one playing a phuku (panpipes; short form of the Quechua term phukuna, "something that is blown into") and a very big "caja" (drum) at the same time. The phukus are chaka sikus (panpipes whose pipes are arranged in order of length) with an optional row of resonators. The tropas of ayarachis from Paratia usually include phukus of three different sizes (mama, lama y wala) and sometimes a fourth one more high-pitched (suli); while those from Sandia, can include up to six different sizes of flutes (hatun or mama, malta, chaupi, sullka or ñaño, suli and requinto), which are referred to as pucu pucu or kinray instead of phuku.
Today, Paratia's ayarachis' performances deal exclusively with the festival of the Virgin of Carmen (July, 16th) and the festival of the Virgin of Rosario (October). The dance (performed by the players themselves and a female group of dancers) is quite simple, including forward and lateral movements. Set against this stark simplicity, the brilliance of their costumes is breathtaking. Men wore a wood ch'ullu (cap with earflaps) and, over it, a hat adorned with multi-coloured ribbons and a phuru (superb head-dress of feathers of suri or Andean ostrich, condor and other birds), finely embellished jackets, men's white long and black flannel trousers fastened with a colourful chumpi belt. They carry several ch'uspa bags and a sort of white cloth blanket. For their part, women wear a montera (wool cap), a red blouse, a jacket or "jubonilla" of black wool with cuffs and an embroidered bust, a skirt and a llijlla or multi-coloured blanket. Both men and women (but mostly women) are profusely adorned with tassels, fringe, beads, bottoms, coins, small mirrors and little medals.
Video 01. "Ayarachi puneño", by Kirkincho sp.
Video 02. Ayarachis.
Video 03. Ayarachis from Antalla (Palca).
Video 04. Ayarachis from Coarita (Paratia).
Video 05. Ayarachis Tawantin Ayllu from Cuyo Cuyo.
Video 06. Ayarachis from Paratia (Lampa) (low quality).