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Hear Los Incas perform
Tema de Maimara

(One-minute sample)

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Los Incas
The roots of contemporary Andean music go back to before the Incan Empire that once included most of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, southern Colombia and northern Argentina. The zampoñas - Andean pan pipes - and the charango - the double stringed Andean mandolin made from the shell of an armadillo - are now familiar all over the world. The shrill, mournful sound of the pipes seems to touch something deep in the human soul, no matter what language one speaks, and is a perfect complement to the muted tones of the charango.

Traditionally, each set of pipes had only a partial scale, which made any performance a cooperative venture with a lot of musical give and take that produced interesting harmonies and overtones. Stringed instruments were unknown before the Spanish, but the charango fit perfectly with the rhythms of the pan pipe. Accounts from the time of the Spanish Conquest praised the hypnotic and soothing effects of the music, particularly the way the melody would bounce and shift as it was tossed back and forth between musicians.

Related Dispatch
A little boy named Hernan plays with Abeja's zampoña

Listen while trekking with Monica to Machu Picchu!
Relive it here!

Jorge Milchberg y Los Incas achieved worldwide fame when the title track of their 1963 album El Condor Pasa became an international hit. El Condor Pasa reached the top of the American charts in 1965 after Paul Simon wrote English lyrics for the tune and invited the band to record it with Simon and Garfunkel. Tema de Maimara, from the album Alegria, is a tour de force of South American soulfulness; a piece that succeeds in evoking the beauty of the Andes themselves.

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This information and world music sample are compliments of Putumayo World Music. Putumayo’s mission is to introduce people to other cultures through music, and towards this end they have released dozens of CDs and cassettes featuring some of the best music from around the world.

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