A guided tour through the sounds of Latin American traditional music, its instruments and performers. By Edgardo Civallero

March 16, 2017

The kamacheña

The kamacheña

Part 01. Introduction


 

[Please download the set of audio tracks accompanying these posts]

The kamacheña (also spelled camacheña) is a somehow mysterious Andean musical instrument. At the root of this veil of secrecy might be its reduced geographical distribution, compared to other popular wind instruments of the Andes. Or perhaps it is due to its use being limited to traditional contexts, its poorly known repertoire, or its difficult playing technique.

It is a vertical flute made from a segment of giant reed (Arundo donax) or any other similar Bambusaceae, about 30-35 cm long. At the distal end the tube is closed by the natural node of the cane, while at the proximal end the node is removed and a mouthpiece is cut with a knife. This mouthpiece consists of a semicircular shaped notch flanked by two "wings" carefully carved from the wall of the cane, which gives the instrument its unique identity. The musician has to introduce both of them into his mouth, and direct a concentrated stream of air against the sharp edge of the beveled notch. The sound produced can be modulated by the three or four fingering holes the kamacheña has on its front side.

Such a limited number of holes make it possible to play the flute with one hand (usually the left one), while the other to beats a small double-headed drum (named caja) with a drumstick. It is not unreasonable to suppose that by providing the kamacheña with its curious "side flaps" their creators would have meant to permit its manipulation with a single hand. In general, wind instruments played in a pipe-and-tabor fashion in Latin America are duct flutes ― e.g. Ecuadorian pingullos, Peruvian roncadoras and Bolivian waka-pinkillos, to mention just a couple of the Andean ones. Their mouthpieces allow the performer to hold the proximal end with the lips in order to maintain, to some extent, the stability of the instrument. Anyway, at least one quena (Andean typical notched flute, without "lateral wings") has been documented to be also played with one hand in Cajamarca (Peru) (Instituto Nacional de Cultura, 1978).

 

Bibliography

Cavour Aramayo, Ernesto (1994). Instrumentos musicales de Bolivia. La Paz. CIMA.

Goyena, Héctor Luis (1997). La música tradicional criolla del Departamento de Tarija (Bolivia). Música e investigación, 1 (1), pp. 59-98.

Instituto Nacional de Cultura (1978). Mapa de los instrumentos musicales de uso popular en el Perú: clasificación y ubicación geográfica. Lima: Oficina de Música y Danza.

Pérez Bugallo, Rubén (1996). Catálogo ilustrado de instrumentos musicales argentinos. Buenos Aires: Ediciones del Sol.

Vega, Carlos (1946). Los instrumentos musicales aborígenes y criollos de la Argentina. Buenos Aires: Ed. Centurión.

 

About this article

Text: Edgardo Civallero.

Image: Argentinean kamacheña and caja [E. Civallero].

This is the first part of the digital book The kamacheña, by Edgardo Civallero, which may be read online on Issuu and freely downloaded here.

 


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March 2, 2017

The erkencho

The erkencho

Part 03. Local variations


 

[Please download the set of audio tracks accompanying these posts]

There are regional variants of the erkencho. In Argentina it is used throughout Jujuy province and in the mountainous area of Salta province, both of them located in the northwestern part of the country. In the highlands of Jujuy, the instrument's bell is usually made from goat's horn (due to shortage of cattle), and in the east of the same province, of copper or brass sheet. In Salta there are erkenchos that combine metal and cow's horn and can reach considerable sizes. In some modern versions, Argentinean builders do not cut the vibrating reed from the pipe itself; instead, they make a rectangular hole, where a small sheet of x-ray film or other similar material is inserted. Incidentally, that turns the clarinet heteroglottal.

In Bolivia, where the instrument is called erke (probably the original name) or, according to some authors, huacachupa (from Quechua wakachupa, "cow's tail"), it is mostly found in the department of Tarija, in the south of the country. It has also been located in the neighboring department of Potosí, in regions such as Calcha, and between the Jalq'a people in the department of Sucre. There, it is very common to elaborate the reed by directly splitting the node at the proximal end of the pipe, and to make the bells with huge cattle horns or gourds, in both cases densely decorated.

 

The erkencho

 

It is because of the influence of the Andean indigenous societies, that this highlands' instrument is also present in the neighboring lowlands ― for example among the Mak'á people from central and boreal Chaco (Argentina and Paraguay), under the name of wakasekech. Izikowitz (1934) mentions it among the Ashlushlay (Nivaklé or Chulupí) people in the same region; according to Pérez Bugallo (1996), that people calls it taklúk, and their neighbors, the Yofwaja or Chorote people, waka kiú.

No archaeological, ethnographic or documentary evidences have been found so far to assert a South American indigenous origin for this particular instrument. According to one of the theories currently in play, it might be derived from a number of European traditional aerophones with similar features, which were quite popular on the continent, particularly in the Iberian Peninsula, e.g. the Asturian turullu or the Cantabrian berrona.

 

Bibliography

Cavour, Ernesto (1994). Instrumentos musicales de Bolivia. La Paz: E. Cavour.

Izikowitz, Karl Gustav (1934). Musical and other sound instruments of the South American Indians. A comparative ethnographical study. Gotemburgo: S.R. Publishers.

Pérez Bugallo, Rubén (1996). Catálogo ilustrado de instrumentos musicales argentinos. Buenos Aires: Ediciones del Sol [Biblioteca de Cultura Popular : 19].

Szarán, Luis (1997). Diccionario de la música en el Paraguay. [Online].

 

Audio

Martínez, Rosalía (1992). Bolivie: Musiques calendaires des vallées centrales. [CD]. París: CNRS/Musée de l'Homme.

Parejo, Rafael (s.f.). Argentina: Tritonic musics of the North-West / Argentine: Musiques tritoniques du Nord-ouest. [CD]. UNESCO / International Music Council.

Valladares, Leda (s.f.). Documental folklórico, vol. I. Quebrada de Humahuaca. Serie Mapa Musical de la Argentina. [CD]. Disc Jockey SCA.

 

Video

Player of erke and caja, Bolivia [link].

Chango Tejerina playing coplas with erkencho, Argentina [link].

Erke and caja played during the Carnival in Tarija, Bolivia [link].

Erke and caja played during the Carnival in Tarija, Bolivia [link].

Mariana Carrizo (Argentina) in the Argentinean folk music festival of Cosquín, 2014 [link].

 

About this article

Text: Edgardo Civallero.

Image: Detail of two pajuelas of Argentinean erkenchos | Argentinean erkencho and caja [E. Civallero].

This is the third and last part of the digital book The erkencho, by Edgardo Civallero, which may be read online on Issuu and freely downloaded here.

 


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