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Thread: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

  1. #1

    Default Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    Hi,

    Sorry for the non-mandolin content, but I couldn't help but show you what I brought back from Peru.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    It's called a Charango and is a small Andean stringed instrument of the lute family, which probably originated in the Quechua and Aymara populations in post-Columbian times, after European stringed instruments were introduced by the Spanish in the times of the colony.

    I had no prior idea what it was, but when I saw the image of Machu Picchu on the back, which was the purpose of my visit, I couldn't resist.

    Prior to the arrival of Europeans to the Americas, there were no stringed instruments at all. Wind and percussion instruments dominated the musical landscape. One of the instruments brought by the Spanish was called “vihuela de mano” (hand-lute). Over the years the native Quechuas, in an attempt to copy the instrument, ended up creating the Charango. There is some dispute between Bolivia and Peru as to the origins of the instrument. Many agree that the Charango was probably born in the city of Potosi, Bolivia, during the colonial period. However, there are other theories as well. The Charango is now a popular instrument throughout much of latin America, interpreted by an array of virtuosos, or charanguistas.

    The Charango is sometimes made using the shell of the Quirquincho (armadillo). The most popular models are now made from different hardwoods, as wood is the preferred material for the serious musician. It is also friendlier to the armadillo population. The instrument consists of ten strings (five double) and is tuned G-C-E-A-E. If you take away the last two E strings, the tuning is identical to the Ukelele. The sound of the Charango is sometimes described as harp-like, though it can resemble the mandolin , lute and guitar as well.

    Thanks,
    JD

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  3. #2
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    Neat photos!

    I once owned a charango, more as a wall decoration than anything else. I bought it in Mexico, at a store that had a lot of imported "ethnic" instruments from all over Central and South America. It was one of the armadillo shell types... very funky. It was a bear to keep in tune, so I never got into actually playing it except for a few chords now and then.

    My wall-hanger charango eventually self-destructed after about 10 years, with a vertical split in the soundboard. Probably because the soundboard wood gradually shrunk a little across the side grain over the years, and the rigid armadillo shell couldn't move with it. An all-wood model like the one in the photo wouldn't have that particular problem, as long as humidity is kept under reasonable control.

  4. #3

    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    I have a friend doing Peace Corps in Peru, hoping maybe she can get me one while she's there rather than going the eBay or whatever route. One of my Spanish teachers in high school had one.

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    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    If thats all you brought back from Peru you are lucky....

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    Joe Todaro of World Frets imports them from some of the luthiers he handpicks in Bolivia. He sells a pretty wide range. I bought one from him probably about 10 years ago or more.

    My daughter is in Cuzco for her fall semester. I don't need another one but where did you buy yours?
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    I bought an armadillo shell charango from Bernunzio's a few years ago, strung it up with strings from Todaro's, never played it that much, and traded it back to John (he said he missed it!) when I bought my Weber "sopranolin."

    Was a bit weird to have a musical instrument with real ears. And hair.
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Was a bit weird to have a musical instrument with real ears. And hair.
    Mine didn't have the ears or hair, just the shell. That was weird enough.

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    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    I bought one on the street in Quito. It wasn't very playable, but it did have binding that was put on with ballpoint pen. I replaced it with a nice Bolivian one bought from Elderly. I still find it hard to play - ought to pull it out more often.

    D.H.

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    bon vivant jaycat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    You can catch leprosy from an armadillo. Just sayin' . . .
    "The paths of experimentation twist and turn through mountains of miscalculations, and often lose themselves in error and darkness!"
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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    Quote Originally Posted by jsphrdvs View Post
    The instrument consists of ten strings (five double) and is tuned G-C-E-A-E. If you take away the last two E strings, the tuning is identical to the Ukelele.
    Enjoy your new instrument. And yes, it is tuned much like the 'ukulele but with that extra E string. I've heard some guys play amazing stuff on them.

  14. #11

    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    Just as with the guitar in Latin music forms, the essence of the charango is in the "picking" hand: the repertoire of idiomatic figures, rasqueados, and patterns deployed in rendering the elaborate syncopated rhythms which characterize so many varied forms of South/Central American folk music. It's like a miniature flamenco guitar: rather than "harmonic" - it's particular capacities are exploited "rhythmically"; a rather simple instrument that comes to life with imaginative and complex "fingerstyle" technique.

    I enjoy playing robust cumbias on mine, in particular, as well as reggae, Stones and Pete Townshend classics : )

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    ..... I've heard some guys play amazing stuff on them.
    Our friend, Bill Kilpatrick is quite adept on the charango. In fact, his playing prompted me to get one a few years back. I hope he shows up on this thread.

    I loved mine, but I admit I didn't spend much $$ on it and the neck went bad after a short while. It was an all wooden carved model not unlike the one the fellow is holding in the OP's photo sans the landscape scene.

    Growing up on the Gulf Coast we were taught to stay clear of dead armadillos--there were lots of them around--due to the leprosy talk. Though I don't know how much of that was exaggeration or what. We sure played with them enough and ate plenty.

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    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    I loved mine, but I admit I didn't spend much $$ on it and the neck went bad after a short while. It was an all wooden carved model not unlike the one the fellow is holding in the OP's photo sans the landscape scene.
    All of the shell-constructed instruments are expected to structurally fail, eventually, in the way you describe. The wooden-bodied instruments are usually superior - if of reasonable quality - and even these are not typically expensive (quite good ones are available for 2-3 hundred $). Look for one built by a reputable luthier.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    One of my favorites is Federico Tarazona. I believe that he makes his own instruments and has a different way of stringing them. It looks like it has 7 courses with the 3rd doubled and the rest all single.



    Last edited by Jim Garber; Nov-04-2016 at 12:57pm.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    This piece has more of an Andean sound and the instrument has an added bass fingerboard.



    I believe what he plays is called a hatun charango ("grand charango") and he designed it. You can see it on his website here.

    The charango hatun of seven courses of strings has the same format as the traditional charango, was designed by Federico Tarazona and constructed for the first time in Lima by luthier Fernando Luna to mid 2001. It has six courses of single strings and a double course tuned to the octave as in the traditional charango.
    The hatun charango, by the way stringing, is inspired by one of the variants of the traditional charango which belongs to the peoples of Puquio and Cora Cora in the region of Ayacucho, Peru, where he played with simple strings and no double . Its sound qualities familiar with the acoustic harp, harpsichord or guitar, and simple strings allow the performer to perform more comfortably different types of attack sound. It is a very sensitive instrument performer expressive resources; for vibrato for example, but also requires greater precision in fingering and especially in the attack on the right hand.
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    From Wikipedia:
    The hatun charango basically adds one or (usually) two bass courses to this arrangement, while eliminating doublings on all but the third course. The resulting seven course instrument is tuned: (A3) • D4 • G4 • C5 • E5 E4 • A4 • E5. This arrangement preserves the reentrant tuning of the charango for courses one through five, while adding the D4 and A3 bass strings for courses six and seven, respectively.
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  24. #16

    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    This is terrific (thanks Jim). I appreciate the various permutations of chrng. and would love to acquire a larger instrument with expanded range. I've been looking around for a ronroco for years, but I'm certain that I would rather pursue an instrument with expanded range - such as the added-course instruments exemplified above.

  25. #17
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    Just found this demo video:

    Jim

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  26. #18

    Default Re: Do you know what a Charango is? I do now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Joe Todaro of World Frets imports them from some of the luthiers he handpicks in Bolivia. He sells a pretty wide range. I bought one from him probably about 10 years ago or more.

    My daughter is in Cuzco for her fall semester. I don't need another one but where did you buy yours?

    I got mine at the Pisac Market. It was the last stop on our tour through the Sacred Valley, which started from Cusco. It was a spontaneous buy. I figured even if I don't learn how to play it, it will would make good wall art.

    A few days later, I was in Puno and stumbled into a music store that had several Charangos. There's probably a store in Cusco as well, just didn't see it.

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