There are several legends about the origin of the charango. Perhaps one of the best known is that of the "musician quirquincho" or "singing quirquincho".
There was once a quirquincho [armadillo] that was very fond of music. He had been born in the sands surrounding the city of Oruro (Bolivia) and every evening he climbed a rock to listen to the wind. When it was raining he walked to the shore of the largest pond and stayed there listening to the singing frogs.
- Why don’t you teach me to sing? – he asked them. But the frogs made fun of him: "A quirquincho will never learn to sing".
One day a man came down the path carrying a cage full of canaries. They were chirping and singing and the quirquincho fell deeply moved by the music. He followed the man for some time without him knowing, crawling along the sandy path.
- Look at the quirquincho, he is running behind the canaries – the frogs laughed. – Bet he will ask them to teach him how to sing.
- Canaries are flying frogs. And they don't even sing as well as we do – a vain old frog said.
He finally came to a stop when his legs could not run any further. He remained laying on the ground until the last chirping birds faded in the distance. At night, on his way back to his den, the quirquincho saw a light in the house of Sebastián Mamani, the village witch doctor.
- Compadre, you who can do it all, can you teach me to sing like a canary? – the quirquincho asked. Any other but Mamani would have laughed at his dreams of becoming a singer, but Mamani was a wise man and replied:
- I can teach you how to sing better than the canaries, but you must pay for this education... with your life.
- I will do anything just to learn to sing.
- I agree. You will sing tomorrow morning, but tonight you will lose your life – Mamani said.
- What do you mean? Will I sing after I’m dead?
- Yes, that is how it is.
The following day at dawn, Mamani went out of his house with a charango in his hands. With the fingers of his left hand he pressed the strings on the frets and with the finger of his right hand strummed the strings with ease. A little later Mamani walked by the pool of frogs.
- Come and listen... – shout one of the frogs. – The quirquincho is singing. And he sings better than the canaries! – she added.
- Better than the crickets! – another said.
- Better than we do! – the vain old frog acknowledged.
[Text extracted from "El quirquincho músico", one of the "Cuentos para no dormir" broadcasted by Canal Encuentro, Argentina].
Article. "El quirquincho músico", in Charango para todos [es].
Video 01. "El quirquincho músico". In "Cuentos para no dormir" produced by Canal Encuentro, Argentina [es].