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19 September 2012 / leggypeggy

Music of the Ecuadorean Andes

Luis Fichamba

Luis Fichamba making an Andean pipe

Today we had the good fortune to meet Jose Luis Fichamba, a gifted traditional musician and instrument maker in Ecuador.

Luis was director of the popular Andean band Nanda Manachi. The group took the music of the quechua people of the Andes to the world, touring in many countries. They might still be performing together today, but the group split up when various band members moved to other nations.

We met Luis in his workshop in Peguche (near Otavalo). He doesn’t speak English, but our local guide, David, explained some of Luis’ background and many talents.

Luis sat with us and within less than 15 minutes of casual cutting, trimming and tuning pieces of bamboo, he had created and was playing a set of small, typical Andean pipes.

He also gave us several short performances, with him playing the pipes, a stringed instrument, and then a flute, drum and percussion instrument made of sheep’s toenails. I managed to get a short video and will post when I figure out how.

We all had a go at getting a sound out of the pipes and other instruments, but the sheep’s toenails were certainly the easiest to play. The rain stick—a piece of bamboo filled with stones and sealed at both ends—was extra easy too. Just tip it end to end.

Our visit to Luis’ workshop was part of a day-long community-based tour we booked and I’ll post more about it soon. We’re off to the Amazon tomorrow—for three days—and I’m not expecting to have an internet connection.

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