Music of Bolivia

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The music of Bolivia has a long history. Out of all the Andean countries, Bolivia remains perhaps the most culturally linked to the indigenous peoples.



Like most of its neighbors, Bolivia was long dominated by Spain and its attendant culture. Even after independence, Bolivian music was largely based on European forms. In 1952, a revolution established nationalistic reforms which included cultural and political awareness of the Aymara and Quechua natives. Intellectuals in the country began wearing ponchos and otherwise associating themselves with native cultures, and the new government promoted native folklore by, among other methods, establishing a folklore department in the Bolivian Ministry of Education.

Awareness of native music, spirituality and art continued into the 1960s. In 1965, Edgar 'Yayo' Jofré formed a quartet called Los Jairas [1] in La Paz. With Bolivian folk music gaining popularity throughout the country, Jofré, along with Alfredo Dominguez, Ernesto Cavour Julio Godoy, and Gilbert Favre used traditional music in modified forms to appeal to urban-dwellers and Europeans. Later groups like Wara, Khanata, Paja Brava, Savia Andina, and especially Los Kjarkas and Kalamarka helped further refine this fusion. Following a close but different path, groups and singers like Luzmila Carpio, Ruphay, and Grupo Aymara started touring abroad and gained international praise for their compositions, tunes that have brought indigenous Bolivian culture and history to the world's attention.

Los K'jarkas consists of 3 brothers, the Hermosas, who play primarily Huayño or, more rarely, sayas. These are both dance music influenced both by native forms as well as African music imported to Bolivia with slavery. Los K'jarkas are known internationally for their Caporales classic "Llorando se fue", which was adopted and transformed to the popular beginning of the lambada dance craze of the 1980s, along with forró and carimbo in northern Brazil. The song was popularized by a French group, resulting in a successful lawsuit from the Hermosa brothers. Kalamarka was founded in 1984 by Hugo Gutierrez and Rodolfo Choque. They fusion folk instruments such as Zampoña, Quena, Charango and Bombo with modern instruments, creating a beautiful musica andina. Their famous songs are 'Cuando Florezca el Chuño' and 'Ama, Ama, Amazonas'. In the 1980s, Chilean nueva canción was imported to Bolivia and changed into canto nuevo, which was popularized by performers like Emma Junaro. [2]

Traditional Bolivian (and other South American) musical instruments include the charango, charangón, ronroco, hualaycho, zampoña, quena, bombo, huancara, reco reco, chiapya box, pinquillo, tarka, toyos, pututu, Andean saxophone, and Chajchas, as well as European musical instruments such as the violin and guitar.

Most prominent Bolivian musical forms identified in its culture and origins are the Kullawada, Morenada, Caporales, Llamerada, Diablada, Tonada (or, directly Tinku), Sikuri, Tarqueada, Taquirari, Carnavalito, Bailecito, Huayño, Lamento, Afro-Bolivian Saya, Tuntuna, Taki Taki, Waca Tocoris, Chovena, Sarao, Potolos, Pujllay, Danza Salay, Rueda Chapaca, Chacarera, Escondido, Tonada, Chunchus, Tobas and Cueca which presents different variants in each Bolivian department.

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The charango is a small Andean stringed instrument of the lute family, which probably originated in the Quechua and Aymara populations in the territory of the Altiplano in post-Colonial times, after European stringed instruments were introduced by the Spanish during colonialization. The instrument is widespread throughout the Andean regions of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, northern Chile and northwestern Argentina, where it is a popular musical instrument that exists in many variant forms.

Andean music

Andean music is a group of styles of music from the Andes region in South America.

Chilean music refers to all kinds of music developed in Chile, or by Chileans in other countries, from the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors to the modern day. It also includes the native pre-Columbian music from what is today Chilean territory.

The Music of Peru is an amalgamation of sounds and styles drawing on Peru's Andean, Spanish, and African roots. Andean influences can perhaps be best heard in wind instruments and the shape of the melodies, while the African influences can be heard in the rhythm and percussion instruments, and European influences can be heard in the harmonies and stringed instruments. Pre-Columbian Andean music was played on drums and string instruments, like the European pipe and tabor tradition. Andean tritonic and pentatonic scales were elaborated during the colonial period into hexatonic, and in some cases, diatonic scales.

Los Jairas was a Bolivian folk music group that was active in the 1960s. Their work features the charango, a stringed instrument from Bolivia.

Culture of Bolivia

Bolivia is a country in South America, bordered by Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay and Argentina to the south, Chile to the west, and Peru to the west.


Huayno is a genre of popular Andean music and dance. It is especially common in Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina, but also present in Chile, and is practiced by a variety of ethnic groups, especially the Quechua people. The history of Huayno dates back to colonial Peru as a combination of traditional rural folk music and popular urban dance music. High-pitched vocals are accompanied by a variety of instruments, including quena (flute), harp, siku (panpipe), accordion, saxophone, charango, lute, violin, guitar, and mandolin. Some elements of huayno originate in the music of the pre-Columbian Andes, especially on the territory of the former Inca Empire. Huayno utilizes a distinctive rhythm in which the first beat is stressed and followed by two short beats.

Los Kjarkas

Los Kjarkas is a Bolivian band from the Capinota province in the department of Cochabamba, and one of the most popular Andean folk music bands in the country's history. Among the styles they play are Saya, tuntuna, huayno, and carnavales. The instruments they use include the charango, quena, zampoña, ronroco, guitar, and bombo.

Los Fronterizos

Los Fronterizos is an Argentine musical band consisting of four men. The group was established in 1953 in the northern province of Salta -- bordering on Bolivia -- from which "Los Fronterizos" is derived.

Kuyayky is one of the most popular and newly influential bands in Andean music. The band has contributed to the prominence and revival of huayno music from central Peru. One of the few Andean music bands with a majority of female members. The band now resides in the United States and gained a following from world music fans for its traditional yet innovative style of Peruvian Music.


The Caporales is a traditional Andean dance originated in Los Yungas of La Paz. Caporales were created and presented to the public for the first time in 1969 by the Estrada Pacheco brothers, who were inspired in the character of the 'Caporal' this is the overseer of the black slaves and was usually mixed race, wore boots and held a whip, a dance that belongs to the region of the Yungas, Bolivia The dance, however, has a prominent religious aspect. One supposedly dances for The Virgin of Socavón, and promises to dance for three years of one's life. Caporal or caporales today is a folklore dance very popular in the festivities of not only Bolivia, but also Argentina, Chile, Perú, Spain and the United States.

Savia Andina is an Andean folk music ensemble from Bolivia, and it was founded in 1975. The group originated in 1964 as schoolmates Gerardo Arias, Eddy Navia and Oscar Castro formed the rock band "Los Rebeldes" in the city of Potosí. Following some records by Arias and Navia in Argentina in the early 1970's they invited Castro back and others to officially form Savia Andina on July, 1975. Savia Andina was one of the first groups to have international success with traditional Andean music. They had this success starting in the 1960s and went on to have three albums to go gold. They toured Europe and are sometimes classed in the "new song/nueva cancion" movement of Latin American music. In the 1970s they became the most popular and influential music group in Bolivia, but were later displaced by Los Kjarkas. They are also known for poetic love songs about mountains. Eddy Navia, a founder of the group noted as a charango player, left in 1988 to join Sukay.

Sukay is an Andean folk music band.


Afro-Bolivians are Bolivian people of Sub-Saharan African heritage and therefore the descriptive "Afro-Bolivian" may refer to historical or cultural elements in Bolivia thought to emanate from their community. It can also refer to the combining of African and other cultural elements found in Bolivian society such as religion, music, language, the arts, and class culture. The Afro-Bolivians are recognized as one of the constituent ethnic groups of Bolivia by the country's government, and are ceremonially led by a king who traces his descent back to a line of monarchs that reigned in Africa during the medieval period. They numbered 23,330 according to the 2012 census.

Javier Parrado is a Bolivian classical composer, whose works have been performed in Europe, and Latin America.


The Carnavalito is a traditional indigenous dance from the Argentinian Altiplano and puna regions, usually performed during religious festivities. Its current form is an expression of a syncretism between Pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial culture. .

Los Koyas is a folk music group composed of five soloists who perform musical pieces and songs of twelve Latin American countries, from the Andes to Cuba.

The Saya is a music and dance that originated in the Collao Meseta region of Peru-Bolivia. The artform's name comes from the Kikongo term nsaya, which means communal work led by a singing voice, akin to a work song. The Saya's instrumentation and dance also reflects the influence of traditional Andean music.

Based in Austin, Texas, Chaski has performed together since 1985 and has toured the United States, Costa Rica, Venezuela, England, and Scotland. Chaski is featured on the soundtrack of the 2006 IMAX film, Ride Around the World: A Cowboy Adventure. Its five CDs feature selections from Chaski's repertoire from Latin America and Spain on flute, panpipes, quena, harp, accordion, cuatro, guitar, charango, bombo, maracas, and other instruments.


The bandolin is a 15-stringed musical instrument in Ecuador. It is used as a rhythm and melody instrument in the Andean region of Ecuador during festivals where dancing and music are involved. It has a flat back and 15 strings in triple courses.


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-02-16. Retrieved 2013-01-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. Emma Junaro Roots World retrieved 16 July 2021