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Prehispanic flutes, past and future: a revision of the social role of flutes in South America at the XXI century

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The study of pre-Hispanic flutes from southern Andes (south coastal and highland PerĂº, highland Bolivia and Argentina, northern to central Chile) shows a special acoustic feature similar to the one used by present day ritual flute orchestras of central Chile. The continuity between both instruments has been established, although present day performances include much Spanish influence (Catholic images, the Bible texts, among others). The similarity between this flute use and another one, the siku of Aymara and Quichua highland communities is revisited, showing both as part of a shared tradition of pre-Hispanic origin. The most complex aspect of this tradition is a kind of polyphonic structure that emerges when many similar flute orchestras gather in a ritual Fiesta at certain dates of the year. The social structure of this polyphonic event shows an special relation between individuals, with social consequences that can be associated with Andean society. The relation between this social structure, present-day musical experiments using it, and the possibility to use it as a tool for understanding our societies is revisited.


pre-hispanic flutes, southern andes, chinos, musician