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    Musical Instruments on display

    Violin, Harp, Bass Drum, Snare Drum, Sacha Guitar

    Musical Instruments

    They were introduced by the colonisers and evangelisers in successive stages and were used especially in religious ceremonies. Later on, the violin, the harp and the guitar -the latter throughout the interior of the country- survived independently in the countryside for the performance of folk music and dance. The bandoneon, created in Germany at the end of the 19th century, was developed after the arrival of immigrants in the 20th century.

    The reproduction of European instruments by local craftsmen promoted their construction with materials from the region: the charango and the bombo had as antecedents the Spanish guitar and the medieval European military drum, respectively. The caja vidalera is the only instrument inherited from American ancestors.

    The Bombo:

    It is a genuine cultural product of Santiago. In every community event the bombo continues to this day, marking the pulse of joy.

    It was incorporated to the catholic liturgy in the processions, accompanying the images of the Patron Saints in their festivities. Since ancient times it has been announcing its passage, with the rumbling of the drumheads and its particular “sound”.

    The “bombo legüero” is so called because its sound could be heard in the countryside several milles Its non-periodic acoustic signal has no tonal pitch, but a spectral pitch. Therefore, the resulting sound, which is not perceived as brilliant, makes possible an evocation of a deep sound, as if it were the heartbeat of the earth. The discourse is established on the basis of rhythmic structures.

    It is the main percussion instrument of folkloric rhythms and its characteristic sound is the hallmark of the music of Santiago del Estero.

    More detailed information

    The people of Santiago del Estero define the sound of the bombo legüero as “the beating heart of the earth”, a description of the perception of the low-frequency sound of the acoustic wave generated by the bass drum when it is struck. These vibrations – of low frequency – with sufficient power, are perceived in the body and produce very strong sensations, especially in the chest, where the heart is lodged and the low sounds are associated with the vibration of the earth.

    Specific information:

    It consists of a cylindrical “box” of ceibo wood (generally), 50 to 60 centimetres high, at the ends of which are fitted by “hoops” of tala or willow wood, two “patches” of sheep, goat or lamb leather; some “tientos” (leather strips) as ties tighten the hoops. The sound is produced by blows of a “palillo” (stick) and a “macillo” (hammer) that vibrate the taut leather tightened to the body of the instrument. The different sonorous nuances are achieved by the performer by means of two resources, the alternation of the percussion of the drumhead and the hoop and the vibration of the drumhead caused by blows in different places.

    The Vidalera Box:

    It is the instrument that accompanies the lyrical “vidalas” which, in the past, were played from the 1st of November until the end of the carnival.

    The “hoop” body is made of tala, chañar or cardón wood. Depending on the type of wood, it is hollowed out or reduced, it is arched, previously moistened or boiled to give it a round shape, with a diameter of 20 to 24 centimetres and variable height.

    The body is covered at both ends with patches of sheep, goat or lamb. The hides are untanned, peeled and hand-brushed, folded and sewn to a ring of wire and then bound together with zigzag ‘tientos’ ties.

    Detailed information:

    The boxes are usually tempered by subjecting them to the action of the sun or by bringing them close to the fire. The “chirlera”, a thread, wire or rope, is tied to the non-percussive drumhead, to which a hoof or a stick is tied in the centre to make it resonate when the instrument is struck. It has a leather handle so thatit can be hung from the hand when it is played. It is struck with a mallet.

    The Guitar

    Originally from Spain, the craftsmanship of its manufacture was passed on as well as the skill of its execution; its dispersion surpassed that of any other European instrument. Its six strings suffered in the rural environment, the characteristic of successive “temples” to facilitate and give greater sonorous richness to the interpretation; this marked a radical difference with the artistic guitar that has a uniform tuning (mi, si, sol, re, la, mi).

    Typically it was taken by the rustic performer in a position very close to vertical, it is plucked strumming or plucking, depending on the role played as accompanist or soloist respectively.

    The Sacha Guitarra (“guitar of the mountain”)

    Originally from Santiago del Estero, Republic of Argentina, it is the last stringed instrument created in the 20th century by the luthier Elpidio Herrera (1947 – 2019), a native of Villa Atamishqui, Department of the same name.

    Elpidio Herrera said that it: “brings the message of the man of the forest of Santiago, it sounds like a guitar, charango and violin; on the fifth string, the tuning is not related to the other strings and it emits a low sound that simulates a sikus. In this way, sounds emerge that imitate birds and human voices, in other words, it reflects the sound of the santiagueño forest.”

    Specific information:

    It is made from a porongo, fruit of the plant of the same name, a climber that can reach up to 9 m in height. It is a “dried gourd in the shape of a pear which, once dried and emptied, is used to drink mate with bombilla”.

    This porongo is cut transversally as a sounding board, with an opening at the front. It has five strings and a small bow made of horsetail bristle that rubs the strings.

    This particular instrument sounds like a guitar, violin, sikus or cello and also in concert with two instruments at the same time; it imitates the sounds of the bush, birdsong and the effects of the human voice.

    The sachaguitarra has its most direct ancestor in the “caspi guitarra”, in Quichua “stick guitar”, an ancient and popular creation that consisted of wood strung with strings made of guts. Elpidio Herrera added the fingerboard and metal strings to it, in order to achieve a better sound. Later, the porongo would serve as a resonance box, giving rise to the first formations of the instrument.

    Later, the musician and luthier from Atamish created the electronic version of the sachaguitarra. With its small shape and angular features, it is the projection of that brilliant instrument.

    “It is difficult for anyone who grows up among musicians not to end up taking notes from somewhere. And even more so if he was born in the mountains of Santiago, where babies are cradled, saints are prayed to and the dead are watched over with the rhythm of the chacarera. This is what happened to Elpidio Herrera: trying to find out what the homemade guitars of the old countrymen would sound like, he ended up inventing the sacha guitar and giving concerts with it even in Germany”. (Clarín, Edition 09/04/01)

    The Bandoneon

    German instrument that spread in the country around 1900 with the arrival of immigrants and was irreplaceable in the “tango” orchestras. In the following decades it also became part of the folkloric ensembles of Santiago de Compostela.

     Specific information:

    It was possibly created by HermannUlgh in 1835, with the aim of spreading sacred music in open places and to replace organs. But it did not work out. After decades, a manufacturer sold these instruments with the initials AA, which later became Vertagh Heinrich Band, assembled in the Band Union workshop. This workshop gave rise to its successive names: bandunion, bandonion and finally bandoneon.

    It was introduced into the country in 1862 by Sebastián Ramos Mejía, a black man who drove a team of horses in the Transwald and who played in cafés in the suburbs.

    The Erke

    In South America, the “erke” is still preserved, inherited from the gigantic musical instruments of classical antiquity, such as the Roman horns (buccina) and tubas, or from Asian antiquity, such as the Mongolian and Tibetan trumpets, which are longer than them.

    The erke is an aerophone, lip-blown instrument, i.e. it has no reed and no flute bevel or embouchure. It is technically a straight transverse trumpet, as it has its mouthpiece on the side and not on the tip of the instrument. This trumpet is made up of two or more pieces of ” Castilla ” pipe, joined one after the other, which end at the opposite end to the mouthpiece, in a pavilion made from the tail of a cow, or ram’s horn, pumpkin, or tin plate. The length of the instrument varies between three and seven metres.

    The “erkero” or player of the instrument, in order to play it, embraces the tube with his right hand, stretching it out as far as possible, and with his left hand, pushes the end near the mouthpiece downwards, trying to counteract the weight of four, five or more metres of instrument that are left in the air, without any support whatsoever. The erkero usually needs the help of a person to hold the long instrument.

    More detailed information:

    The erke is played at certain times and on certain occasions. The musicologist Carlos Vega states that the erke, like other Argentinian highland instruments, has its own season for playing, which is between autumn and winter. It is widely believed in the north of Argentina that the “bellowing” of the erke causes frost, so it is avoided to play it in summer.

    It starts to be played after the Carnival festivities. One of the most favourable occasions for playing the erke is the Corpus Christi festival.

    The erke, which is only played by men, accompanies the peasant processions during the religious festivities, in which numerous erkeros usually appear. In the dances, it alternates with the singing of the “coplas de invierno”, so called in contrast to the “coplas de verano”, which alternate with the playing of another aerophone instrument with a similar name, although it is a kind of rustic clarinet with a horn bell: the “erkencho”.

    The erke’s playing is generally clumsy and dull; the instrument sounds, according to Carlos Vega, like a “distant mooing”.

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