Indigenous Musical Instruments of Northeast Argentina (2024)

Idiophones: Maraca

The maraca, crafted from the dried fruit of the totumo (a type of gourd), houses seeds or small stones that produce vibrations when shaken against the gourd's walls. To prevent clustering, long thorns are inserted inside the gourd. Initially used by the Diaguita tribes pre-conquest, this instrument remains integral among the indigenous communities of Chaco, Formosa, and some Araucanian tribes in Chile. It functions as an accompanying instrument, often played in conjunction with other instruments.

Idiophones: Uñú

Fashioned from animal nails, shells, or other materials arranged in strips, clusters, or rows, the Uñú, a women-exclusive instrument, generates sound when shaken. In the past, male dancers would adorn them on wrists, as belts, or around their ankles. Presently, it finds use among the indigenous peoples of Chaco and Formosa.

Aerophones: Sereré

The Sereré, a whistle made from a 13cm long, 3cm wide, and 1.5cm high piece of wood, is used by Chaco and Formosa's indigenous tribes to signal during hunts. The individual controlling the Sereré blows into it while positioning their lower lip on the rear edge of the air canal, modifying the sound by covering or uncovering the lower air canal opening.

Aerophones: Naseré

Another whistle, the Naseré, comprises a flattened wooden disc with an entry hole for blowing and two lateral air channels. It produces a sharp, penetrating sound and, like the Sereré, aids in signaling during hunts among the Chaco and Formosa indigenous communities.

Chordophones: Chaqueño Violin

Crafted from palm tree trunks hollowed to form a resonating chamber and covered with animal skin or brass, the Chaqueño Violin's bow is an arched branch or rib, tensioning a moistened string before being played.

Indigenous Musical Instruments of Northwest Argentina

Aerophones: Quena

Widely spread, the Quena is built from materials like cane, bone, or wood, featuring an embouchure for airflow and regulating holes. At approximately 50cm in length, its melancholic sound complements dances like bailecitos, carnavalitos, and huainos.

Aerophones: Siku

Also known as the Antara, the Siku or pan flute comprises two rows of tubes with decreasing lengths tied together. Traditionally, one row consists of seven tubes while the other contains six. It accompanies various musical genres, especially when combined with other instruments.

Criollo Instruments: Guitar

The most popular instrument in Peru, the guitar comes in ten different variations distinguished by form, materials, and string count. Its tuning varies by region and is employed in various genres, including vals criollo, marinera, festejo, huayno, zamacueca, and even chicha music.

Criollo Instruments: Cajón

An Afro-Peruvian percussion instrument widely used in coastal musical variants like marinera, criollo music, and broader black music. Players sit on the cajón, striking it with their hands, and it has gained recognition in flamenco music.

Criollo Instruments: Harp

One of the oldest instruments introduced to America by the conquistadors, the harp comprises parallel strings on a triangular frame and is played by directly plucking the strings with fingers.

Criollo Instruments: Charango

Featuring a resonating box made from the armadillo's shell and a neck similar to a guitar, the Charango with its five double strings is widely used in the music of Salta, Jujuy, and throughout the country.

Criollo Instruments: Rhythm Tube

Crafted from a section of takuara cane, the rhythm tube, prevalent in Misiones, produces sound by striking its base on the ground and holds sacred significance in women's songs and dances.

Criollo Instruments: Bombo

Constructed from a cylindrical trunk with thin walls made of sheep or goat leather, the Bombo is played by striking the membrane and wooden hoops with a mallet. It's a popular accompaniment in various folk dances across regions from Jujuy to La Rioja, Tucumán, and Santiago del Estero.


These indigenous and criollo instruments, deeply embedded in the musical heritage of Argentina, showcase a rich cultural tapestry that transcends time, continuing to enchant and resonate within diverse communities and across various musical genres.

Indigenous Musical Instruments of Northeast Argentina (2024)
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