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    Land of winds > Instruments > Instrument | Issue 14 (Mar.-Apr.2013)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

The quenacho and the quenali


The quenacho and the quenali

The "standard" quenas are those tuned in equal tempered intervals. They have 6-7 finger holes on the front and one thumb hole on the back. These are the normalized commercial variants of the original instrument, which is commonly known as "indigenous quena". The "model" quena is the most widespread among the "standard" quenas. It is tuned in Gmaj and measures around 37 cm long.

Quenacho or kenacho is the generic name for all types of large "standard" quenas, measuring between 50 and 80 cm long. These instruments are tuned lower key than the "model" quena, usually in Cmaj, though also in Dmaj and Bmaj.

The mamaquena, mama-quena or mama quena is a particular type of quenacho. It is tuned in Gmaj but one octave lower than the "model" quena. Embouchure changes from one to another of this type of aerophones depending on the length of the pipe, which uses to be relatively big.

The smaller variants of the "standard" instrument are known as quenali, kenali or, sometimes, quenilla. They are tuned in a higher key, usually above Amaj, and especially in Cmaj (an octave higher than the most common quenacho).

For a long time it was necessary to have quenas tuned in all possible keys in order to play songs in different keys.

In his book "Instrumentos musicales de Bolivia", Ernesto Cavour states that the term "quenacho" used to designate an Aymara dance from the region of Copacabana, accompanied by a quena larger than usual; the name would have remained associated with the flute. He also explains that the word "quenali" is an Aymara neologism for "small quena".


Article. "Quenachos y quenas", in Vientos de los Andes [es].


Video 01. Mamaquena, by Agustín Portillo (La Paz, Bolivia).
Video 02. Mamaquena, by Lucho Siles.


Picture A: Edgardo Civallero.


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