Before Columbus discovered the New World in 1492, Indians were native Americans. Therefore, their music culture became the mainstream of American music culture at that time. After 1492, church music was passed on to native Americans by Jesuit priests. The colonial authorities suppressed native music. Local rhythms and melody gradually mixed with European rhythms and melody to form a new and distinctive Latin American music form. Therefore, many Indian factors can still be found in Latin American music.
Variety of indigenous musical instruments
Many Indians’ music is closely related to life, combined with religion, labor, and dance. The melody they have is simple and has a unique expression. The absence of stringed instruments is a major feature of Native American instruments. Although guitars, violin, harp and other stringed instruments are often used in Indian music today, these were brought by Europeans since the 16th century, or were made in the New World under European influence.
Indigenous Indian musical instruments from all over Latin America are diverse and rich. It can be described as a great spectacle in the family of musical instruments in the world. All kinds of minerals, fruits and things on animals can be used by Indians to make musical instruments. For example, the natives of Mexico wear strings of dried butterfly cocoons on their ankles, and they make rhythmic sounds when they dance. The Surilan natives are tied with a string of earth king nut shells on their waists, and they sway beautiful sounds during temples and celebrations. In addition, jaguar claws and deer hooves have been specially processed, and the inflated tiger eyes are all good materials for their musical instruments. Peruvian Indians used llama heads to make drums; Native Americans used monkey heads to make nose flutes; Mexican Indians used human skulls as resonance boxes. Even the forest and the ground were used by the Indians to make imposing symphony instruments.
Strange and interesting wind instruments
The most important traditional indigenous instruments of the Indians are wind instruments such as flute and okari (similar to xun), or wind instruments such as panpipes, clarinet, and nose flute. The most popular of these is the recorder, which is baked from bamboo, shin bones or clay. There are also V-shaped double-pipe clarinets made of reeds, which appear in shrines and ceremonies of indigenous people in the Amazon River region.
Indians usually endow their flute instruments with humanity, some of which are yin and some of yang. For example, Maracas is yin and Jiilo is yang. The Guna Indians of Panama have two Toro flutes, of which only one hole is a male flute, and the four hole is a Yin flute. The chronology of Peru in the 18th century tells a true story of a “corpse love” related to music. An indigenous musician named Gamporil fell in love with a beautiful Indian girl. After the tragic death of the girl, he was in distress, so he secretly took out one of the girl’s tibia and cut it into a feminine clarinet. Whenever he couldn’t restrain his sadness, he took out the yin flute made of the girl’s remains and played a comforting tune.
The panpipe is the mainstream instrument of Indians across Latin America. It is called “Antala flute” in Peru, “Cappado flute” in Colombia, “Rondado flute” in Ecuador, and “Six flute” in Paraguay. Some people refer to all kinds of panpipes collectively as “Samponia”. It is worth mentioning that there are two giant panpipes in Bolivia, one is “Xikuxiao” and the other is “Bahunxiao”. “Xikuxiao” is made of a set of sugarcane rods with one end closed and is more than one meter long. When blowing, wrap your lower lip tightly and play from the opening of the pipe. “Bahongxiao” is made of a reed tube wrapped with palm leaves and is nearly two meters long. When blowing, the upper and lower lips are attached to a mouth made of reeds. There is also a novel “tuning” method for these two panpipes, that is, pour sand into the pipe to adjust the length of the air column.
Among the native Indian musical instruments, the most unique is the nose flute. The nose flute of the Bolivian Indians is made of bison leg bones. It is about 40 cm long and has 7 holes in the body. It can play many different scales through the nasal cavity. Its sound quality is magnificent and beautiful. The nasal flute of the Chilean indigenous people is made of sea whale spine, about 60 cm long, with 9 holes in the body, and the sound played by the nasal cavity is thick and round, euphemistic and lingering. The nose flute of the indigenous people of the Amazon River Basin is also a very interesting wind instrument. It is made of a monkey’s head or a nut shell, in the shape of a disc with holes.
Indian wind instruments are mostly used in local religious ceremonies and are often regarded as “sacred instruments”. In the Yurupari (or horn) ceremonies held secretly by the indigenous people of the Amazon River Basin, the mysterious music is like a pipe organ in a church. Six boys stood on the village square and played musical instruments of different shapes and sizes. Four of them were clarinets and two were spiral-shaped trumpets made of bark. The sounds they made were sometimes eerie, sometimes deep and rough. It is said that indigenous people believe that this horn has the magic power to protect young men from the temptation of women, so women are not allowed to see it to prevent the mana from being broken.
Fascinating percussion instrument
Among the indigenous musical instruments of the Indians, perhaps the most fascinating is the percussion instrument. And the drum plays a major role in this. In various parts of Latin America, indigenous people often make drums from empty tree trunks, such as “Tebonaster” in Mexico, “Trocano” in Brazil, and “Huco” in Nicaragua. There are also “bass drums” and jungle drums.
Cuban Indians have a wide variety of drums, the largest of which is called “Conga”, which is made of burnt-out tree stumps and has a particularly loud sound. It is a “jungle telegram” for the indigenous people to convey information. The smallest drum is the Venezuelan “Culloen Ella”, and the sound is inaudible after two steps. It is made of half a coconut shell, covered with a piece of parchment paper, and placed in a small hole in the ground. People sit on the ground and play.
More interesting is the “water drum” played in the water. It is made of half a husk and played with wooden sticks upside down in half a basin of water. The sound is very similar to “frog sound”. The shell is filled with projectiles, which can also be used as a shaker, and its sound is exactly like a sand hammer.
”Tebonaxle” is the most important percussion instrument in Mexico. It is made of boulders. The drum body is laid flat, and there is a hole on the wall of the drum. The pitch of the sound on the left and right of the hole is different, usually a minor third and a major third. The local aboriginals regard it as a sacred musical instrument and only use it on solemn occasions.
The exquisite “basket drum” made by the indigenous people in central Brazil is also very distinctive. It is to dig a deep hole in the ground, and put a large hollow palm trunk in the hole, which contains elephant skin, mica powder and animal bone fragments. When people dance on it, it can resonate strongly.
An even more ingenious percussion instrument is Haiti’s “cake drum”. In fact, it is not a drum, but a musical bow. One end of a string is tied to a branch and the other end is tied to a cowhide drum. A hole is dug in the ground and covered with a drum skin. When the wind blows the branches, the strings vibrate and sound by themselves. The local indigenous people installed hundreds of these musical instruments of different pitches in the large forest, forming a magnificent “Forest Symphony”.
Strange scratching instrument
Among the indigenous musical instruments of the Indians, there are basically no stringed instruments, but there are all kinds of weird scratching and frustrating instruments. Such as many hard nut shells can be used as a scraper, can also be used as a hollow shaker. The collective name of the shaker is “Maracas”.
Among the indigenous musical instruments of Nicaragua, there is a musical instrument called “Huko”, the “Bull Roar”, which is made of animal skin on a barrel with a string passing through it. As long as the string is tightened, a special sound can be frustrated or played, which often gives people an ominous feeling. The Salvadoran monochord similar to this is called “Kalimba”, which also ties both ends of the strings to a delicate wooden box. But it made a slender and beautiful sound.
”Music saw” can be regarded as a stringed instrument among the indigenous people of Latin America. The double-body music saw of the Chilean indigenous people is called “Kongkulkawi”, which is made of tree roots and thin wood strips. The two ends are stretched with a string to make it into a curved bow, like two chain links. Together, sound by rubbing the strings. The Brazilian indigenous people have a stringed instrument called “Pui”, which is mainly used in carnivals. When it is scratched, it makes a sound similar to howling animals. Generally, one end of a lead cylinder is covered with fish skin. Pull out a gut from the center of the skin, rub the rosin on your feet, and pull the string tightly when you play. According to a Brazilian writer, “Puy” makes a sound like a pig cry.
What’s incredible is the Mexican scoop-shaped file “Checavaztri”, which is made of clay and carved with grooves, which act as “strings”, using wooden sticks or animal bones, and human bones. “Pull the bow” to “strum”. In the National Museum of Mexico, there are several human femurs carved with small grooves, which are grazing with bones. This kind of human bone “Chekavaztri” is called “Omizichekavaztri”, which means “bone sound”.