Bolivia for Kids: What is a Charango?

by Cristian

The charango is a small ukelele-type instrument that belongs to the lute family of instruments. The charango originated from the Quechua and Aymara peoples, but only after the Spanish introduced stringed instruments.

The charango is used and played in Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Peru. The charango is 66cms (22 inches) long and is usually made from wood and the shell of an armadillo. The charango typically has 10 strings (5 sets of 2 strings strung very close together) but can have up to 20 strings.

There are many stories that related how the charango was created but the following two stories seem to be the most plausible:

The first story says that the native peoples loved the sound of the Vihuela (an ancestor of the classic guitar). However, they lacked the knowledge and technology to make the vihuela. So they made it with what they had available (armadillo shells). The second story is about how the Spaniards banned native music and instruments so the natives tried to make something simmilar to the Spanish vihuelas but in their own way.

The specific location where the charango was first made is still debated. Mainly it is thought that the charango comes from the city of Potosí Royal Audiencia of Charcas, a part of the Viceroyalty of Peru which is currently in present-day Bolivia.

The charango was traditionally made with dried armadillo shells for the backs and wood for the soundbox. Even though the charango is traditionally made with the armadillo shell, today it is also common to made charangos completely out of wood.


Submitted 2019-05-09

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