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Andean music, a living manifestation of Inca and pre-Inca cultures

Andean music, a living manifestation of Inca and pre-Inca cultures

2 September 2019

Imagine how music began in the Andes Mountains. Wandering bands of migrating original settlers likely spent hours vocalizing their songs.

It’s so natural for humans to sing, as a way of connecting and communicating with each other, to tell stories, and for the beauty and comfort that singing brings forth.

Still today, native Andeans sing the traditional songs, to each other, for the community and for Pachamama, the Mother Earth, and the many spirits of nature.

The vocal are intense, in unison, in pentatonic scales. The men sing in strong voices, and the women sing in high tones, emotional and melancholy. These are not modern jazzy pop ballads. Andean songs come from the heart, from the land, and from the difficulties of life and history.

This is strong music of the Earth- of soaring, hard mountains, of pure mountain streams and cold winds, of lovely birds, lonely blue skies and bright sun.

Musical Origins

Andean musical instruments originated with the earliest known flutes and drums. Perhaps to mimic the countless birds singing around them, early Andeans experimented with melody by making flutes.

Flutes made of pelican bones have been found at Caral, the earliest known pre-Inca settlement on the coast. Simple wind instruments made of reeds and bamboos later evolved into different types of panpipes (zampoñas, antaras and sikus), and into the melodious bamboo flutes (quenas) still played today.

Maracas and simple drums (bombos) kept the rhythm. Pre-Inca cultures, such as the coastal Moche, represented musicians and their instruments in beautiful ceramics.

The Incas were known to play many such instruments, including conch-shells horns, in their rituals, dances and celebrations. In Inca music , the blend of music and dance was always inseparable, a concept they called taki, still prevalent today.

The Spanish influence

The Spanish invaders brought their stringed instruments, including mandolins, harps,  bandurrias, violins and guitars. With this new influence, Andean musicians evolved the music in different directions, with more intricate harmonies and melodies.

The European instruments were eventually adapted into today’s Andean charangos, larger ronrocos, the Andean harp, and other multi-stringed Andean instruments that produce gorgeous sounds.

The classical guitar has also become a key instrument of Andean music, with true masters playing gorgeous, erudite solo interpretations. Today, professional Andean ensembles present the ageless expression, beauty  and deep emotion of Andean music.

Andean music today

Today, traditional Andean music  is played at joyous festivities and solemn religious celebrations, often accompanying vigorous, bouncing Quechua native dances.

Especially at Cusco ’s wonderful late June Inti Raymi Sun Solstice festival, Andean music is heard everywhere, often played by loud brass, drum and woodwind bands.

The most important modern style of Andean music and dance is known as huayno, which has many regional variations. The festive carnavalillo is one variation, and the city of Puno is known as the “folkloric capital of Peru” for its many related musical styles and performers.

When in Cusco, you can enjoy Andean music and dance presentations on most nights at the Centro Qosco de Arte Nativo on Av. El Sol, and other venues.

So, if you’ve only heard and like Paul Simon’s famous interpretation of “El Condor Pasa”, you have so much more of true Andean music yet to discover and enjoy!

Contact us at andeanlodges.com, and join us on a spectacular trek to Ausangate, where you’ll be awakened each morning at our ecolodges by the sweet traditional songs of native Andean women!

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