If you were to travel to the Andes mountains of South America you might hear a small stringed instrument called a charango. At first glance, it looks a bit like a mandolin, but instead of four sets of double strings like the mandolin, the charango has five sets of double strings for a total of ten strings. And there’s something else that’s different about it. If you turn over one of the older style charangos, you’ll see that it is made from the shell of a hairy armadillo!
If that seems like an odd choice for an instrument, it helps to know the background of how this strange and beautiful instrument came to be. Historians believe that the majority of instruments in the Andes before the Spanish arrived were wind and percussion instruments. There were an amazing variety of flutes – some several feet long. There were different sizes and shapes of panpipes as well as rattles and drums that varied from location to location. When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the 1500’s, they brought guitars, mandolins and the harp. Many of the records dating back to that time period share how local musicians adopted and integrated these stringed instruments into their culture with great enthusiasm. Since wood was scarce; especially at altitudes that soared above the tree line, the hard shell of an armadillo became the sounding “bowl” for their new world version of the old world mandolin.
You can hear the unique sound of the charango on many of the songs on DARIA’s new album – Cancioncitas De Los Andes/Little Songs Of The Andes. You can also color your own version of a charango as well as other instruments from around the world on the craft and activity page of DARIA’s website as listed below.
Cancioncitas De Los Andes / Little Songs Of The Andes – On Itunes
Cancioncitas De Los Andes / Little Songs Of The Andes on Amazon mp3
DARIA’s World Music For Kids – Craft and Activity Page
During the month of March 2013, you can download a free mp3 of the song, El Condor Pasa, at the link below: