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Title: Bolivia--Yuyarikuy Kantu; Kantu group of Charazani region. Label: Auvidis UNESCO. Format: CD. Catalogue#: D 8009. Track: 3.

Contextual Associations

The wankara or wankar is a large double-headed cylindrical membranophone of the Quechua- and Aymara-speaking peoples of the Bolivian Andes. The wankara described here is associated specifically with the kantu (also spelled khantu) panpipe ensemble of the Kallawaya people, who live near Lake Titicaca. There, kantu music is performed only by peasant men and is heard out-of-doors, usually in processions, as part of dry season agricultural and Christian festive days. It should be pointed out to avoid confusion that the name “wankara” is also applied to another Andean drum of a considerably different design and not represented in this collection.


The shell of the wankara pictured here is made from two very thin pieces of wood (it can also be made by hollowing out a tree trunk). One piece, when bent, nearly makes an enclosed cylinder while the second piece, only about six inches wide, finishes off the cylinder wall when it is nailed to the ends of the larger piece. The two open ends of the shell are each covered with a mammal skin membrane (of llama, alpaca, sheep, goat, or calf hide) mounted on a rigid flesh hoop slightly greater in diameter than that of the openings in the shell they cover. A wooden counterhoop with the same diameter as the flesh hoop is lapped over each end of the membrane enclosed shell and lacing, made from a long strip of mammal pelt, is looped over the counterhoop and through and around the fleshhoop (see detail image), running back and forth along the length of the shell from one counterhoop to the other in a V-pattern. By pulling on this lacing while the heads are being attached to the shell, downward pressure is placed on the two heads to increase their tension. Small sliding leather rings encircling two consecutive segments of the lacing can be used to make adjustments to the drumhead tension at the time of performance. A small metal-rimmed pressure hole is situated in the middle of the shell. Two beaters (wajtana or waqtana), the bulbous end of each covered with crocheted yarn, came with this wankara. The head on one is harder than on the other, and a performer would choose one of them to use for a performance. A strap for carrying the drum, made from a long strip of mammal pelt, is tied to the tension laces.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The wankara hangs horizontally by its shoulder strap to the left side of the performer with one head facing forward, the other backwards. Only the forward facing head is struck with the beater, which is held in the player’s right hand. A kantu ensemble will include from one to a few wankara players, each of whom is also playing a panpipe held in his left hand. Generally a steady beat or straightforward duple meter rhythm is produced on the drum/s.


Sources are not forthcoming regarding the age and origin of the wankara. The flesh hoop plus counterhoop with V-shaped lacing suggests that at some time in the past Spanish military drums informed local instrument makers as to this approach to head attachment. When this influence might have happened appears lost to history. 

Bibliographic Citations

“Andean membranophones: general comments,” on website Land of Winds, by Edgardo Civallero and Sara Plaza, accessed August 8, 2018: https://landofwinds.blogspot.com/2012/11/andean-membranophones.html

Baumann, Max Peter. 1985. “The Kantu Ensemble of the Kallawaya at Charazani (Bolivia).” Yearbook for Traditional Music17: 146-166.

Parejo, Raphaël. 1991. Liner notes for Bolivia Panpipes, recorded by Louis Girault. 1 CD, Auvidis D8009. 

Stobart, Henry. 1998. "Bolivia." In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v.2. ed. Dale A. Olsen and Daniel E. Sheehy. New York: Garland Publishing, pp. 282-299.


Instrument Information


Continent: Americas

Region: South America

Nation: Ecuador

Formation: Quechua

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

211.212.11 membranophone--individual double-skin cylindrical drum, one skin used for playing

Design and Playing Features

Category: membranophone

Number of drums comprising instrument: single drum

Shell design: tubular - cylindrical

Number and function of membranes: two, one for sounding and one for resonance

Membrane design: framed with rigid flesh hoop

Membrane attachment: counterhoop, lapped over framed membrane hoop, connected by lacing or tension rods to counterhoop lapped over framed membrane hoop

Membrane tension control: sliding rings joining adjacent laces

Sounding for membranophone: striking with one handheld beater

Sound modifiers for membranophone: none


28 in. length of shell 17.4 in. diameter of shell

Primary Materials

membrane - mammal skin
membrane - mammal pelt

Entry Author

Roger Vetter