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    Land of winds > Instruments > Instrument | Issue 19 (May.-Jun. 2014)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

"Andean" saxes and clarinets

Andean saxes and clarinets

The so-called "Andean saxes" are single-reed aerophones, similar to the European saxophone, made with several cane sections of different shape, size and diameter and, occasionally, with a gourd bell attached. The purpose is to reproduce the conical shape of the original instrument using natural materials while, at the same time, its complex key system is removed completely or significantly reduced. They are made by specialized luthiers, and presented in the most common keys (soprano, alto, tenor); sometimes, metal and wood keys are provided for large sized instruments. This is a mere copy or calque of the European instrument; in the Americas no examples of indigenous/pre-Hispanic single-reed aerophones have ever been documented.

Contrary to what its name suggests, this is not an Andean creation and neither is it a very popular instrument in the Andes, where the standard sax has always been the preferred one. However, it continues to be known as "Andean sax" and as such it is traded in craft markets of Latin America. One of the best known bamboo saxes (and other instruments) makers is the Argentinean Ángel Sampedro del Río.

Article. "El desarrollo del saxo de bambú en Argentina", in Un Mundo de Bambú [es].

Likewise, "Andean clarinets" are single-reed instruments that copy the European clarinet's structure. They usually have a simple cane or wood body without keys, and a gourd bell (that can be replaced by a tinplate or brass bell in complex, elaborated models). These instruments are manufactured by the players themselves and mostly used in the Peruvian Central Sierra and Bolivia. In Bolivia the instrument is known as "chirimiya", "clarineta" or "clarinete"; it is usually made by artisans in the province of Omasuyos (department of La Paz) and often accompanies bands consisting of mohoceños. It produces a vibrant, high-pitched sound that overshadows the flutes. Some musicians only use the reed and their hands to make the body and bell shape; they call this instrument "clarín", "imilla", "khonana" or "khonani".

Picture 01. "Andean" saxes (Argentina).
Picture 02. Bamboo saxes (Bolivia).
Picture 03. "Andean" saxes (Argentina).
Picture 04. "Andean" saxes (Chile).
Picture 05. Bamboo saxes (Argentina).

Picture A.

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