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    Land of winds > Instruments > Instruments | Issue 18 (Mar.-Apr. 2014)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Andean chordophones (04):plucked instruments


Andean chordophones (04): plucked string instruments

Plucked string instruments were brought to America during European colonization, back in the 16th century. At the time, a large and heterogeneous group of chordophones was played in the Iberian Peninsula; some of them were versions of Arabic instruments introduced to the Peninsula after the Moors conquest in 711 A.D., while others were derived from Graeco-Roman string instruments. The lack of accurate and reliable information (which adds to the confusion created by some sources) does not allow for the identification of all of them and many details remain uncertain. Between the 13th and the 16th century, in today's Spain, besides the usual bowed instruments there were different forms of lutes (derived from the Arabic 'ud), the gittern (called interchangeably "guitarra sarracena" or "guitarra morisca", which also had Arabic origins), the first mandores (derived from the gittern and from which, in turn, would derive the Italian mandolino or mandolo and, later on, the mandolin), the last citoles and the cittern (derived from the citole), the vihuelas and the early guitars, and the first bandurrias (on whose origins there is still much debate). All these instruments (in both their urban/high-art versions and their popular/rural versions) and their relatives encountered in other European territories (today's Portugal, France, Italy...) were, to a greater or lesser extent, brought to colonial America. Here, some of them met with a general lack of acceptance; others were assimilated in their original form; and most of them were adapted to suit the particular needs of local instrument makers and players.

At present, after four centuries of changes and acceptance or rejection before they acquired their recognized and current form, plucked string instruments in the Andes include mandolins, bandolins, bandolas and bandurrias used in traditional music.


Andean chordophones (04): plucked string instruments

The mandolina has 8-12 metal strings arranged in four double-triple courses, usually tuned as the violin (E-A-D-G). Its sound box, unlike the original Italian instrument it derives from (the late Neapolitan mandolin), has usually a flat back, though some of them retain a vaulted back made of a number of strips of wood in a bowl formation. The strings are plucked with a plectrum (pick) and the instrument often has a melodic role. It is used in northern Chile (though at a much lesser extent), Bolivia, Peru (where it is usually known as "bandolina") and Ecuador to play huaynos, huaynitos and huaylarsh, among many other rhythms. It has a strong presence in the criollo music of Ecuador and within the Peruvian and Bolivian estudiantinas (ensembles of university students).


Mandolin, in Wikipedia.


Video 01. "Mi mandolina", by Los Relicarios del Perú.
Video 02. "Cantinerita", by Los Aymarinos.
Video 03. "Lima de antaño", by Las Mandolinas de Lima.
Video 04. Mandolina cusqueña (audition).
Video 05. Waltzes and marineras of Peru, by Mandolinas Criollas.

Andean chordophones (04): plucked string instruments

The bandolin is widely played in the folk and popular music of Ecuador, accompanying a variety of local rhythms, especially sanjuanitos and albazos. It is an ever-present instrument in rural indigenous ensembles and also appears alongside the mandolin in the estudiantinas as well as in urban criollo music bands. The bandolin has fifteen metal strings arranged in five triple courses, tuned E-A-D-F#-B or E-A-D-G#-B. It can be played as a melodic instrument with a plectrum or to create broad-reaching harmonies (plucked with a pick or with the fingers).


Bandolin, in Wikipedia.
Article. "El bandolín", in Flacso Andes [es].


Video 06. "El bandolín" (Expresarte, programme 01).
Video 07. "Viva la comadre" and "Llorando tu ausencia", by Estudiantina Quito.
Video 08. "Chimbaloma", by los hermanos Pichamba.
Video 09. "Sanjuanitos en Otavalo" (low quality).
Video 10. "Tres bandolines" (low quality).
Video 11. "Tutorial de bandolín" (low quality).

Andean chordophones (04): plucked string instruments

Quite similar to the bandolin is the bandola found in Chile, Colombia and Venezuela. The Aymara bandola has 12-16 metal strings arranged in four triple-quadruple courses and can be tuned in different ways (usually, "macho" (male) tuning, A-E-B-A; and "hembra" (female) tuning, A-E-C-A). It is widely played in the Altiplano region to accompany coplas and tonadas at Carnival, and the "floreo de llamas" (music played while marking the animals).


Bandola, in Wikipedia.


Video 12. Aymara Bandola playing floreo de llamas, northern Chile.

Andean chordophones (04): plucked string instruments

In Colombia, the bandola is found in the Andean region. Modern versions have 12 wound/metal strings arranged in six double courses, while traditional ones have 16 wound/metal strings arranged in four triple courses and two double courses, in both cases tuned G-D-A-E-B-F#. It is plucked with a plectrum, and used both as melodic and harmonic instrument, to play traditional Andean music of Colombia, i.e. bambucos and pasillos.


Colombian Andean Bandola, in Wikipedia [es].
Article. "La bandola andina colombiana", by Diana Jáuregui. In Laboratorio Cultural (feb. 2006) [es].
Article. "La bandola andina colombiana. Reseña histórica, características y bases técnicas de ejecución", by Manuel Bernal Martínez [es].


Video 13. Fabián Forero Valderrama's "Ostinato", by Diego Saboya.
Video 14. "Pasillo nº 8", by Conjunto Instrumental Kirú.
Video 15. Three musical pieces written by Morales Pino, played by Orquesta Colombiana de Bandolas.
Video 16. "Torbellino op. 8", by Orquesta Colombiana de Bandolas.

Andean chordophones (04): plucked string instruments

Venezuelan variants of the bandola include the bandola llanera (also present in the plains of Colombia), the bandola oriental and the bandola cordillerana (or montañera), named after the landscape where the instrument belongs: the plains region, the eastern region and the mountain region.

The bandola oriental, with four double courses (metal, nylon and/or wound strings) and square body top is probably the oldest one. The bandola cordillerana (sometimes called bandola guariqueña or bandola mirandina) also has 8 wound/metal strings arranged in four double courses tuned E-A-D-G, and exhibits a characteristic pear-like shape. It is found in the states of Guárico, Miranda and Anzoátegui. According to oral tradition, this variant would be derived from the bandola oriental and it is said that the instrument would have being brought to the village of El Guapo (Miranda state) by two musicians from Cumaná. The oldest examples of bandola cordillerana are morphologically quite similar to the bandola oriental. Its modern version (bigger sound box than its predecessor and without its characteristic "square shoulders") was standardized by A. Arzola Pararia. Other instruments, known as "bandola barloventeña" and "bandola guayanesa" are, in fact, variants of the bandola cordillerana. Finally, the bandola llanera has four single courses of wound/nylon strings.

In the Venezuelan Andes it is also played the so called "Colombian" bandola, that is, the traditional bandola with 16 strings used in the Colombian Andes.

[Thanks to Danny Torres A. for the valuable information about the various types of bandolas in Venezuela].


Article. "La bandola: El instrumento". In Bandola Montañera de Guaribe [es].


Video 17. "La vigilia", by Verfidio Flores.
Video 18. "El guarebero", by Grupo Cuerda y Madera.
Video 19. "El llorón".

Andean chordophones (04): plucked string instruments

The bandurria is played in Peru and some parts of Bolivia. The most widely known variant is the bandurria cusqueña. Another variant is the marimacho, similar to the bandurria, though bigger in size and with four triple or quadruple courses. Peruvian bandurrias can be tuned in different ways and are mostly used to play traditional Andean music. At present they are mostly found in the Sierra, though in the past they were also in the coastal regions.


Bandurria, in Wikipedia.
Article. "Bandurria", in Museum of World Music.


Video 20. "Sabino Huaman on the marimacho".


Picture A | Picture B: E. Civallero | Picture C | Picture D | Picture E | Picture F | Picture G


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