Issue - April 2007

April 2007

Dear readers, in March we broaden our horizons, searching for centers in Bolivia that have a commitment to the community. This edition, read about the Fundación Simón I: Patiño and the Hacienda Pairumani who demonstrate an unfailing commitment throughout the years, not only to Cochabamba, but Bolivia in more...

April 2007

The Prehistoric Andean

by: Walter Sánchez Canedo
Translated by : Daniela Viljoen
Drawings by Ricardo Céspedes
Digital drawings by Iván Montaño

The quena (Andean flute) is a symbolic musical instrument of the Bolivian Andes. Its use has been widely used in Aymara and Quechua communities, where campesinos craft it from wood. As a solo instrument, …. The quena can also be played in an ensemble, of different sizes and sounds, all given distinct names in different regions of Bolivia. The quena quena is traditional of the Altiplano of La Paz, mainly the surroundings of Lake Titicaca. The lichiwayu are made in the planes of Cochabamba and in the Altiplano of Oruro. The choquela are played by the Aymara around Lake Titicaca, and is also known throughout some areas of Peru (Apurimac and Puno in particular). The pusi pia (also known as mukululu) are made almost entirely throughout the department of La Paz. From the 1960’s, a medium size quena was introduced to folk musicians. Its use became popular thanks to the French musician “El Gringo” Favre, member of Los Jairas (musical group).

This musical instrument appears along with the first inhabitants of the valleys of Cochabamba during what is called the Formative Period (1500a.c. – 400b.c.). Archaeologists of the Archaeological Museum of the Universidad Mayor de San Simón have discovered a quena in Yurac Molina made of llama bone and is considered to be one of the oldest reported in Cochabamba. In Santa Lucia (Valle Alto of Cochabamba), another site, archaeologist Olga Gabelman also discovered various fragments of quena.

During the Horizonte Medio (400b.c. – 1100b.c.), a time when the Tiwanaku culture developed, the use of the quena appears to grow massively and there seem to be a variety of types. Archaeologist Ricardo Céspedes has excavated four quenas made of camélido from a hilltop in Piñami (Quillacollo). Three of the quenas demonstrate three tone holes and range between 10 and 13cms long. The fourth discovery shows a total of six tone holes separated by a type of circular decoration. In his book “Tihuananu, La Cuna del Hombre Americano” (1896), Arthur Posnansky published an article describing a quena made of bone with four tone holes. In another article published by Julia Elena Fortúnin “Aerófonos Prehispánicos Andinos” (1968-1970), she describes a small quena made of bone (11.5cms), with three tone holes, which had been excavated by archaeologist Carlos Ponce Sanjinés in Mollo (La Paz).

During the periods Intermedio Tardío (1100b.c. – 1450b.c.) and the Horizote Inka (1450b.c. – 1530b.c.) the use of this instrument continued. A beautiful example of a white quena made from bone was recovered from the Inka de Tuska Pujio site (in Sacaba) by me. It contains three tone holes and is approximately 13cms long.

The presence of the quena throughout prehistoric times and its presence nowadays – presently made of wood (cañahueca) –, demonstrates the importance of this musical instrument in the music of the Andean people.

Emilio Martinez
Emilio Martinez (Uruguay), writer and journalist, winner of the "Premio Municipal de Literatura de Montevideo" and "Premio National de Literatura Santa Cruz de la Sierra", author of Imigraciones de Arkham and various articles for Bolivian and Uruguayan newspapers such as La Union, El Deber and La Razón, in his short thesis...
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