Flute of the Andes: Quena

We visited La Paz, in Bolivia some ten years ago, and spent hours getting lost meandering the colourful mercados, mesmerized by the macabre and weird findings of the witches market and the rainbow of bright colours and soft fabrics in the Mercado De Las Brujas …in search of some ethnic Andean cultural ware. We were especially interested in traditional Andean musical instruments, and eventually found, down a narrow back street, a craftsman whose family had been making such instruments for generations. We purchased a number of traditional instruments including Mosena, quena and charango, to bring back to the UK and have continued to work with our new overseas partner for the last 10 years, buying small quantities of various ethnic instruments, along with some of the amazingly colourful fabrics and soft alpaca clothing.

The quena is the traditional musical instrument of the Andes. It is a flute which is traditionally made from wood or cane. It has 6 finger holes and one thumb hole, and is open on both ends or the bottom is half-closed (choked). To play, the player closes the top end of the pipe with the flesh between the chin and lower lip, and blows a stream of air downward, along the axis of the pipe, over an elliptical notch cut into the end. It is normally in the key of G, with G4 being the lowest note. It produces a very “textured” and ‘dark’ sound, very unlike the tone of the Western concert flute due to the difference in length-to-bore ratio.

Quena Finger CHart

You can check out our South American quenas here. 🙂

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