Traditional and Indigenous Musical Instruments of Argentina (2024)

Argentina is a country with a rich and diverse cultural heritage, and its traditional music is no exception. The nation's music can be divided into two main categories: folk music and ethnographic music. While both are deeply rooted in the country's history and culture, they each have unique characteristics and instruments that make them distinct. In this article, we will explore the traditional and indigenous musical instruments of Argentina, shedding light on their origins and significance.

Folklore: The Heartbeat of Argentina

Folklore music, known as "folclore" in Spanish, is a genre deeply embedded in the fabric of Argentine society. It has a vast array of subgenres, each with its own unique composition and regional influences. Here, we delve into the fascinating world of Argentine folklore instruments.

1. Water Drum (Tambor de Agua)

The water drum, or "Tambor de Agua," is a distinctive percussion instrument originating from the Chaco region. It was primarily used by indigenous tribes such as the Toba, Pilaga, Wichi, Charota, and Nivakle. This unique instrument features a hollowed-out body filled with water, covered with deer leather, and played using a stick.

2. Pan Flute (Flauta de Pan or Siku)

The pan flute, also known as "Flauta de Pan" or "Siku," is a wind instrument with two sets of tubes: the arca, consisting of seven tubes, and the ira, with six. Its origins lie in the highlands of Argentina, particularly in the Puna and Quebrada de Humahuaca. Initially, it required two musicians to play, one for each row of tubes, but over time, it became a solo instrument.

3. Charango

The charango is a string instrument with a resonance box and a set of strings. Traditionally, the resonance box was made from the shell of armadillos, but this practice has become less common over time. It features five pairs of double strings and comes in various sizes. The charango has its roots in regions near the Andes mountain range.

4. Bombo Legüero

One of the most iconic instruments in Argentina, the Bombo Legüero, hails from Santiago del Estero. Its name, "Legüero," refers to the fact that its powerful sound can be heard over long distances, up to nearly five kilometers. This percussion instrument consists of two sheepskin membranes stretched over a wooden cylinder, typically made from hollowed tree trunks, and is played with two sticks.

5. Erkencho

The Erkencho, a wind instrument native to the Puna and Quebrada de Humahuaca, is sometimes referred to as an idioglottic clarinet due to its reed-like tongue. It consists of a cane tube and a cow horn, with the sound being generated in the former and amplified in the latter. In the same family of instruments, the Erke is similar but has a longer cane tube.

6. Tarka

Originating from the northern regions of Argentina, the Tarka is a gentle-sounding flute-like instrument with a vertical wooden body, typically crafted from a single piece of wood, featuring six holes in the middle section.

7. Chiriguano Violin

Similar to its European counterpart but with distinct body shapes, the Chiriguano Violin is native to the Chaco region of Salta. Its body shapes vary depending on the maker and give it a unique character.

8. Kultrun, Cultrún, or Cultrum

Known as the Mapuche drum, this percussion instrument originates from the Patagonia region. The Kultrun resembles a drum with a bowl-shaped wooden body covered by a leather membrane. It can be played by hand or placed on the ground and struck with a mallet.

9. Mbike or Pilaga

The Mbike, also known as Novike or Pilaga, is a one-stringed bowed instrument originating from the Toba people, mainly located in Chaco, northern Argentina. It consists of a resonating box made from a gourd or armadillo shell, with a single string played with a bow.

10. Quena

Another prominent instrument in Argentina's indigenous music scene, the Quena finds its origins in the provinces of Salta and Jujuy. It is a wind instrument with a body made from cane or wood, featuring six front holes and one rear hole.

11. Trutruca

The Patagonian trumpet, or Trutruca, is an essential instrument in Mapuche culture, used primarily in rituals and folk music. It comprises two parts: a body made from colihue (a type of cane) covered with sheep or horse intestine and a horn made from a cow's horn.

12. Caja

The Caja, originating from the northern-central region of Argentina, is a percussion instrument similar to a drum but smaller in size. It consists of a closed wooden or tin ring with two membranes attached with cords. The lower membrane, called "chirlera," creates a unique sound when struck due to small beads attached to it.

13. Takuapú

The Takuapú, also known as the "rhythm stick," has its roots in the Guaraní tribes of Misiones. Originally played only by women, it is a hollow cane that, when struck on the ground, produces a deep and resonant sound.

14. Sachaguitarra

Sachaguitarra, meaning "jungle guitar," is a unique instrument created by Elpidio Herrera, a musician from Santiago del Estero. It consists of a washboard, a neck, and strings. Over time, the washboard was replaced with a small gourd resonator, resulting in a hybrid sound reminiscent of the guitar, violin, mandolin, and charango.

15. Quijada

The Quijada, made from the jawbone of a vertebrate animal, serves as a musical instrument when appropriately prepared. It can be from a donkey, horse, or cattle. The most common way to produce sound from the Quijada is by striking it with a closed hand, causing the teeth to vibrate, creating a distinctive rhythm. Alternatively, the teeth can be rubbed with a stick.

These traditional and indigenous instruments play a vital role in preserving Argentina's cultural heritage, reflecting the diversity of its regions and the indigenous communities that have shaped its history. From the rhythmic beats of the Bombo Legüero to the haunting melodies of the Pan Flute, these instruments are more than just musical tools; they are cultural treasures that continue to enchant and captivate audiences around the world.

Traditional and Indigenous Musical Instruments of Argentina (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Terrell Hackett

Last Updated:

Views: 6260

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Terrell Hackett

Birthday: 1992-03-17

Address: Suite 453 459 Gibson Squares, East Adriane, AK 71925-5692

Phone: +21811810803470

Job: Chief Representative

Hobby: Board games, Rock climbing, Ghost hunting, Origami, Kabaddi, Mushroom hunting, Gaming

Introduction: My name is Terrell Hackett, I am a gleaming, brainy, courageous, helpful, healthy, cooperative, graceful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.