Although you can find this type of instrument in several locations around the globe, zampoñas from the Andes mountains of South America have a beautiful, breathy sound that can be heard playing some of the most haunting melodies on the planet. And since there are so many variations of this simple instrument, exploring zampoñas can be a great way to learn more about the geography, culture and music of this region of South America
Zampoñas (pronounced zam pon nyas) are a series of hollow “pipes” made from hollow reeds found near lakes in the high mountains. When these reeds are cut and used one at a time, they often become simple flutes such as the quena pictured here. When the reeds are cut to different lengths and bound together in a flat or slightly curved arrangement, they become part of the the large family of panpipes that can be played solo or in a group. Also called siku or sikuri, many festivals feature groups of men playing together – called sikuriada – where the song is performed by alternating notes back and forth between the players while they walk.
Playing the zampoñas is a bit different than many common wind instruments. Various sounds are created by blowing over the top of the reeds in the same way you might blow over an empty soda bottle to create a musical note. Although understanding all the different names of zampoñas can be complicated, here’s some basic facts. The word zampoña is Spanish. In the Native language of Aymara, panpipes are called siku or sicuri. In the Native language of Quechua, panpipes are called “Antara”. In Quechua, the family of panpipes include Ika or Chulli (or Ch’ulli) that are about the size of a fist. The next largest size are called “mallta”. One octave lower than “mallta” are the “sanka” (or zanka). And the largest – sometimes three or four feet long – are called “toyo”. Just as the names change from village to village and region to region, the manner of playing is also wonderfully unique, making this an instrument that will never cease to amaze those who wish to explore it or learn to play it.
Would you like to listen to this instrument, color one or make your own version at home or in class? Check out some of the helpful links below.
Resources and Links
Zampoñas Coloring Page
Make Your Own Zamponas Activity
A Child’s Life In The Andes – A 35 Page Book about Music and Culture of This Region
Cancioncitas De Los Andes / Little Songs Of The Andes – On Itunes
Cancioncitas De Los Andes / Little Songs Of The Andes on Amazon mp3