Andean Music is as diverse and rich as the many cultures that brought it into creation, and wind instruments are an essential component. When listening to music while in Peru, you’re likely to hear the sounds of these wind instruments.
Because of their distinct sound, the pan pipes are probably the most easily-recognizable instrument of the Andes. They also have the deepest roots. We can see from archeological remains that humans have had pan pipes with themselves for almost as long as they have walked the continent.
What most people don’t recognize, is that there are many different forms of pan pipes. The most popular ones are known as zamponas, which luthiers construct with two rows of parallel pipes which are tied together. Another kind of pan pipe is known as an antara, which is a one-rowed instrument.
Ocarinas are very popular with tourists, and you can find them at almost any marketplace within the country. But some are more authentic than others. Most ocarinas that you’ll find are mass produced and are therefore of a much lower quality than their hand-made equivalents.
Thanks in part to the demands of tourism, these instruments are much different than they were fifty years ago. You can still find authentic ocarinas if you look in the right places. In the town of Pisac, in the sacred valley, you’ll find several artisans who still make ocarinas in the traditional way. You can also make a trip to the village of Cuyu Grande, where many families make ocarinas by hand.
Just like the pan pipes, the quena is an ancient instrument. People used to make these flutes out of animal bones, the most popular being llama bones, and condor bones. Though you can still find animal-bone quenas, they are much more commonly made with bamboo or other hardwoods.
For those interested in learning a new instrument, the quena can be a difficult choice to start with, because you first have to learn how to make a sound by blowing across the notch at the top of the flute. But after you pick this up, things get easier, and a lot more fun.
The pituto is a conch shell horn that Andean civilizations have used for many thousands of years, to make music, as well as in order to communicate across distant landscapes. This is an example of an Andean instrument that is most “back to nature.” In order to create them, makers of these ancient cut a hole in the center of the shell and often sculpt a mouthpiece out of clay.
Cover photo: Flickr