Music of the Yampara and Charkas Indians

The last few years have seen the beginning of the renewal of Indian community identity in the Andes cordillera.  The recent recognition of the original  communities and the reconstitution of the 'ayllu', territorial political, economic and social entities of Pre-Colombian origin, acknowledged by the Spanish occupiers but abolished by the Republic, has helped even the most isolated Indian communities to become aware of their political weight within Bolivian society.  A movement in favour of Pre-Colombian cultures has recently emerged in Kollasuyo, the southern part of what used to be the Inca empire, the territory of present-day Bolivia. The preservation and affirmation of native cultures, particularly language, music, dance and dress which have always signalled the various group identities, today constitutes a form of resistance to enslavement which tends to unite, rather than divide, "native" communities in their diversity.

The Pachamama Community
It is within this context that, since 1995, a group of young women and men from the rural areas of the Chuquisaca (Sucre region) undertook a systematic effort to conserve, diffuse and teach native Pre-Spanish music and dances of the Yampara and Charka (Quechua) Indians. These two groups of Indians are mainly farmers and cattle-breeders. The Yampara occupy the northern area of the department. The Charka are settled more to the south-east and in the region of Potosi.

Although most are half-castes (mozo) and urban dwellers, the activities of the Pachamama Community are part of the political struggle for identity on the part of the ever-increasing numbers of Indians who reject the secular urban, bourgeois and cultural oppression instigated by the Spanish. The unstable economic situation, the flagrant social injustice to which the Indians are subjected, and the threat of the ultimate destructuring of their world as reflected by their present reality, has pushed these young half-castes to become involved in cultural action.

Some Indian communities favour the assimilation of cross-cultural culture and thereby their progressive integration and the de facto creation of a new macro-regional identity for half-caste peasants. The Pachamama Community has opted for the opposite approach by affirming its belonging to Indian culture and restoring this through its musical practices. They acknowledge, as their repertoire demonstrates, many evident cross-cultural influences. The very name of the group is itself a political declaration : the word 'comunidad' or community, as opposed to 'pueblo' which designates the half-caste settlement, designates a political and social Indian entity composed of several families sharing the same territory; in Quechua and Aymara, 'Pachamama' means Mother Earth which in itself symbolizes all the mythology, beliefs and rites of the Andean Indians. The group's decision to call this CD Wayra, meaning 'the wind', is part of the same political and symbolic approach.

This search for recognition and social and economic justice for the most destitute is expressed in the countryside and villages of the Chuquisaca by in-the-field work among the Indian populations during traditional festivities which require music. By thus drawing from and sharing its knowledge within the Indian world, the group has developed a close relationship with certain rural Indian communities. These communities then help, throughout the region, to preserve their common cultural heritage from the effects of several centuries of domination. Others working in the field of socio-economics reinforce the political and trade union structures and actively resist the ravaging effects of liberalism and a system of exploitation which is the direct result of colonialism. The Pachamama Community reveals the importance and role of native cultures in the struggle for self-determination.

Music and instruments
The instruments used by the Pachamama Community belong to the traditions and popular customs of the Quechua Indians of the Chuquisaca.
For music of Yampara culture, the group uses Pan's flutes or syrinx (siku or sikuris), made of hollowed out reeds or bamboos, and long recorders (pinkullu or pinkillos), also made of reed or bamboo. The shape and playing style of sikuris varies according to region. The tunes and rhythms change according to the time of year. This instrument is played by groups - at least six musicians simultaneously. On some occasions the pinkillo ensemble features over ten players at a time. For Charka music, various sizes of double-rowed Pan's flutes (jula-jula) are used alongside wooden flutes (hiranas). The jula-jula produce rough, warrior-like music and are played by bands which sometimes figure over twenty musicians during the feast of the Cross, of Santiago or the Rosary. The hiranas flutes are also played by bands using twelve instruments of six different dimensions, the largest measuring about one meter and the smallest around 25 to 35 centimeters long. The playing style and the rhythms vary according to the time of year : the most joyful for carnival time, the most solemn for the patronal festivals.

Wind instruments are predominant. They are accompanied by membraniphonic drums of the sort common throughout the Andes : the big drum with two skins (bombo) and the frame drum of either urban or rustic manufacture (caja). Small bells (campanilla), cattle bells and whistles complete the ensembles.

CD tracks
  1. Huayño (from the name of the rhythm). This huayño from the Tarabuco Peral Community is played by twelve big sikuris (two pairs of zankas and four pairs of maltas) accompanied by a bombo and a tambora.

  2. Sikuris (from the name of the instrument). Traditional piece from the Peral Community.

  3. Carnavalito is played solely at carnival time (Kuri Community).

  4. Pinquillos (from the name of the instrument). Played on the Pujllay (Indian) dance rhythm, this traditional piece from Yampara culture celebrates the victory of Jumbate where native peoples of the Tarabuco region beat the Spanish armies. Tribute is also payed to the chiefs Calizaya and Carrillo who won this battle. Since this victory, the people of Yampara culture are known as 'sonqo miku' - 'eaters of hearts'.

  5. Marcha (sikuris). Communities announce their arrival in another village using marches.

  6. Palamana (from the name of a Community). This huayño is traditionally played at Carnival or during patronal festivals. The arrival of the Spanish saw the prohibition of Pre-Hispanic festivities which followed the agricultural calendar. Such festivities were subsequently integrated into the Christian calendar.

  7. Diana (sikuris). This traditional rhythm announces a feast day : 'Listen companion, let's start the feast, let's play with joy'.

  8. Patito carnaval. 'Patito' means little duck, 'carnaval' refers to the rhythm. This piece, of urban and Spanish influence, makes reference to the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe during which a whole day, called 'Entrada' (Entrance) is reserved for the Peasant Communities.

  9. Estudiantes makes reference (in song form) to the literacy campaign among Indians during the revolution of 1952. This instrumental piece is typical of the Chuquisaca and of Sucre, the old capital and university town which still has a certain cultural influence.

  10. Hiranas (from the name of the instrument) is mainly played for the Feast of Santiago (July 25th), the Feast of the Rosary (October 4th), the patronal festivals and Carnival (Wanuman Community).

  11. Jula Jula (from the name of the instrument) follows a rhythm called 'tinku' which means 'meeting'. This piece is mainly played by the Wanuman Community for a ceremonial warrior dance which takes place during the Feast of the Cross in May. During this Feast, the men of this community come together in a ritual, unarmed battle against men of neighbouring Communities, until blood is drawn in offering to Pachamama.

  12. Huayño. Huayño rhythms are very popular throughout the Andes although they may vary from region to region. They are usually played alternately with cuecas.

  13. Cueca (from the name of the rhythm). Cueca and Huayño are generally played during village festivities. The instruments differ according to the region (in this case, Tarabuco).

  14. Virgen Pachamama (sikuris). Played for religious Catholic Feast days and processions, this piece nevertheless makes direct reference to Indian beliefs and establishes a link between the Virgin Mary and Pachamama.

  15. Antawara means 'sunset' in Quechua and Aymara. This huayño, from Kuri culture, is played during Carnival and at pastoral festivals.

  16. Navidad - This Nativity is a 'villancico', or music for Christmas, and is played between December 24th and January 6th.