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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 phukuna is a double-row raft panpipe aerophone of the Quechua-speaking people of the Bolivian Andes. There exist in the Andean Plateau of Bolivia a number of closely related instruments of this type, the particular instruments pictured and discussed here most closely resembling those of an ensemble, called kantu or khantu (see Kantu Ensemble from Bolivia), of the Kallawaya people, who live near Lake Titicaca. Performed only by peasant men, kantu music is heard out-of-doors, usually in processions, as part of dry season agricultural and Christian festive days.  


In a kantu ensemble, phukuna of various sizes and registers are used. Though varying greatly in size (see first detail image for a comparison of the largest- and smallest-sized phukuna in a kantu ensemble), all Kallawaya phukuna are similarly designed. Made from a variety of thin-walled bamboo (locally called chuqui; genus Arundo donax), each panpipe consists of two parallel rows of either six or seven cylindrical tubes of roughly equal diameter but graduated in length (see second detail image)--panpipes with two rows of six tubes are labeled ira; those with two rows of seven arka (in the gallery image on this page the ira panpipe is on the left, the arka on the right). Whether ira or arka, the tubes in the two rows on a given instrument differ in one important way--the tubes in the row closest to the performer (and nearest the camera in the gallery image) are closed at their bottom end, the other row open (open tubes are called nojo). A closed pipe will sound an octave below and open one of the same length. The two parallel rows of tubes, aligned so that their top/blowing ends form a flat plain and their distal ends reveal their differing length, are sandwiched between two stiff supports made of split bamboo tied tightly together with string.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

An individual player is needed for each phukuna (therefore, two players would be necessary to play the panpipes pictured in the gallery image). The short end of the phukuna is held in the player’s left hand with the blowing ends of the tubes facing upwards and the closed-tube row facing the performer. In addition to playing a phukuna, some members of a kantu ensemble might simultaneously play a large cylindrical drum (wankara) slung from their left shoulder and struck with a beater held in their right hand. The player sounds his instrument by blowing across the top end of a tube in the closed-end row and its parallel one in the open-end row simultaneously, producing an octave. Melodies are played on phukuna in the hocket technique and require the coordination or pairs of players with one in each pair playing an ira instrument, the other an arka. The closed row tubes of one pair of phukuna produces a heptatonic scale over the range of an octave and a sixth, as do their open-row tubes but an octave higher. The lowest note of the scale is produced by the longest tube of the arka instrument, the next on the longest tube on the ira, back to second-longest arka tube for the third scale degree, and so forth until the highest tone is produced on the shortest tube of the arka. The closed tubes on the instruments pictured here are approximately as follows: arka--B3 - D-sharp4 - F-sharp4 - A-sharp4 - C-sharp5 - E5 - G-sharp5; ika--C-sharp4 - E4 - G-sharp4 - B4 - D-sharp5 - F-sharp5. For more information on the orchestration of kantu music see Kantu Ensemble from Bolivia. The performers in a kantu group typically dance in a circular formation while playing.


Panpipes made from a variety of materials have been in use in the Andean region for centuries, at least back to Inca times. But it is not possible to state with any certainty when the phukuna of the Kallawaya came into existence or how they have evolved over time.

Bibliographic Citations

Baumann, Max Peter. 1985. “The Kantu Ensemble of the Kallawaya at Charazani (Bolivia).” Yearbook for Traditional Music 17: 146-166.

________. 2004. “Music and Worldview of Indian Societies in the Bolivian Andes.” In Music in Latin America and the Caribbean, v.1: Performing Beliefs: Indigenous Peoples of South America. Malena Kuss, ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, pp. 101-121.

Schechter, John M. 1984. “Siku [sicu, sico].” NGDMI v.3: 382-383.

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: Bolivia

Formation: Kallawaya

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

421.112.3 aerophone--set of end-blown panpipes: several end-blown flutes of different pitch are combined to form a single instrument; mixed open and stopped panpipes

Design and Playing Features

Category: aerophone

Air cavity design: multiple tubular shapes: cylindrical with closed distal end; cylindrical with open distal end

Source and direction of airstream: player exhalation through mouth into air cavity; unidirectional

Energy transducer that activates sound: dull rim at end of tube

Means of modifying shape and dimensions of standing wave in air cavity: none

Overblowing utilization: not used

Pitch production: multiple pitches - multiple single-pitch tubes bundled together and activated directly by player


17.9 in. length of longest tube (of ira) 6.9 in. length of shortest tube (of ira) 20 in. length of longest tube (of arka) 6.4 in. length of shortest tube (of arka)

Primary Materials

cord - cotton

Entry Author

Roger Vetter