Canadian music fans are indeed fortunate. With a national culture that embraces cultural diversity, we are continually treated to the musical traditions of citizens who have moved to Canada from other countries. Inevitably, native-born Canadians join forces with newly-arrived Canadians to form musical collaborations. Ancient Cultures is such a collaboration-a group that plays Latin American folk music.
Ancient Culture's Discography with Invincible Music
Ancient Cultures, based in Vancouver, is composed of a mixed group of musicians. Alberto San Martin, Carlos Cortes, and Angel Araos come from Chile, but their musical roots are in jazz, folk, and classical music respectively. Fito Garcia comes from Guatemala and arranges and plays salsa music. Edward Henderson is from Vancouver Island where he grew up playing folk and classical music. Carlos Galindo Leal is from Mexico and has many years experience playing Spanish and Latin American music. Their debut album, Acoustic Mirage/Espejismo Acustico, combines their musical backgrounds into a deft, understated, weave of Latin American music. It is a beautiful, introspective offering. By their second album, El Camino Real, the group achieves full maturity. Awarded a Juno in 1994 as "Best World Beat Recording," the album displays more creative energy and a clearer sense of direction. This is a fine, sure album that should be on playlist of anyone who loves Latin American music. And for those who like Christmas albums with a twist, The Miracle of Christmas, which features the Vancouver Chamber Choir along with the Latin American folk instruments, is an album that is irresistible.
The central Andean regions of the countries of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile (the list is geographic from north to south) are among the richest in the world with regard to variety of musical and folkloric traditions. Long before the Spanish conquest, and even much before the Inca civilization, the diverse native cultures of the region had rich musical traditions. Ancient tombs have yielded flutes, trumpets, drums, and other musical artifacts; many ceramic jars found in ancient tombs depict musical instruments being used in various contexts (shamanism, propitiation to the gods, hunting, dancing) that are difficult to interpret. Music was obviously important in the human and supernatural worlds of ancient Andean people. With the coming of the Spanish conquerors in the sixteenth century, accompanied by Catholic missionaries and African slaves, additional musical languages were introduced. Today, three principal racial and cultural strains---Native, Spanish, and African---are unique in some regions of the Andes and have blended in others to form the racial and cultural amalgams known as mestizo and criollo.
The geography, also, makes the central Andes a region of contrasts. As you travel from the highlands of Ecuador, through the northern, central, and southern Andes of Peru, across the altiplano in southern Peru and northern Bolivia, and into the valleys of southern Bolivia, great geographic as well as cultural contrasts can be seen, the latter represented by the numerous ethnic groups that existed in great numbers before the Spanish conquest. Each of these groups spoke its own language at one time, even throughout the centuries of the Incan conquest, until the Spanish imposed Quechua as a lingua franca; and their autonomy still exists to a certain extent today.
The central Andes, however, are somewhat united by several musical/cultural factors: patron saint festivals that reveal a fusion of Roman Catholicism and indigenous beliefs; the ubiquitous wayno dance music and its varients; the Spanish-derived guitar and other European instruments; and, since the 1970s, a "pan-Andean" musical style (featuring kena flutes, siku panpipes [see picture below], and a small charango guitars) which has diffused from southern Peru and Bolivia into many of the cities and towns in the central Andes, largely because of tourism. The native Andes were basically flute and drum oriented. The main winds in ancient times included notched-end kena (quena) flutes of bone (human, llama, and/or pelican), cane, gold, and silver; ocarinas made from clay; and panpipes (antara among the Quechua and siku among the Aymara). Since the colonial period, native Andean people have played fipple flutes of cane or wood (pinquillo), some performed in pipe-and-tabor fashion as in Europe. The main drums were the Quechua tinya, a small-frame drum with two heads, and a larger instrument which today is called bombo (a onomatopeic Western name for a deep-frame drum), also with two heads. All of these exist today, although the kena, siku, and bombo are the most common. The Spanish element began in the sixteenth century, when minstrals, aristocracy, and clergy introduced guitars, harps (see picture below), mandolins, violins, transverse flutes, pipes-and-tabors, and oboes into the land that they called the Viceroyalty of Peru. Later came the brass instruments associated with Western military bands. The early Church fathers considered the harp, the violin, and the transverse flute to be the most pure instruments for the accompaniment of Catholic songs and rituals, while the guitar and guitar types, such as the mandolin and the bandurria, were considered too sensual for religious purposes. Thus, they were not taught to the Indians; the guitar became, rather, the instrument of Spanish gentlemen. Nevertheless, the native people of the central Andes adapted the guitar types to their own use by making them smaller and more portable, and by crafting them from the shells of armadillos in Bolivia, because wood is scarce in the high Andes. This instrument, known as the charango, is the favorite string instrument of southern Peru and Bolivia; it is used as a solo instrument for courtship, as an accompaniment to singing, and as a member of larger ensembles that often include kena flutes, violins, guitars, drums, and other native and Spanish-derived sound makers.
The popular Andean "pan-Andean" musical style of today, which was greatly diffused by the popularity of the nueva cancion ("new song") groups of Chile such as Inti-Illimani and Quilapayun, by the popularity of Los Incas from Peru (who recorded "El Condor Pasa" with Simon and Garfunkle), and Savia Andina and others from Bolivia, is largely a phenomenon of urban folklore, perpetuated through folkloric penas (coffee houses). The basic instruments used by such ensembles are the kena (see below), siku (see below), charango, guitar, and bombo, instruments originally from southern Peru and Bolivia only. This music of today, so popular throughout Europe, Japan, and the United States, is pan-Andean because its repertoire often includes Chilean cuecas and Venezuelan joropos, in addition to Bolivian and Peruvian waynos and Ecuadorian sanjuanitos. The spirit of the music, however, remains a mixture of Native, Spanish, and to a lesser degree, African musical elements.