tarka

Also:       tarca      tharka      anata      

Title: Mountain Music of Peru, volume II—Carnival Music; Tarkas de Putina (District of Conima)[field recording by Thomas Turino; see Cohen and Turino in Bibliography]. Label: Smithsonian Folkways. Format: CD. Catalogue#: SF CD 40406. Track: 24.

Contextual Associations

The tarka is an end-blown duct flute aerophone of the Aymara people of the greater Lake Titicaca region of southern Peru, western Bolivia, and northern Chile. It is played in consorts (ensembles of like-instruments), called tropas in Bolivia and tarkeadas in Peru and Chile, primarily for Carnival but also, in some areas, for family celebrations. Turino  reports that in the District of Conimo, Peru, tarkeadas from various communities gather in the district capital during the opening and closing days of Carnival to compete and play for dancers, and in private homes in their respective communities during the middle days for a ceremonial act of reciprocity with local spiritual forces (mountain divinities, the Earth, and ancestors) called t’inka (Cohen and Turino 1994, p. 11). Only men play this instrument. It is not known what meaning, if any, the surface carving on these instruments convey.

Description

Each of these tarka (gallery #1 and #2) is made from a long rectangular block of hardwood (orange, pomegranate, and mahogany are commonly used) with a cylindrical bore drilled through its entire length. Detail #1 illustrates the relative size of the two tarka specimens being described here. Each instrument has six equidistantly spaced fingerholes in the lower half of its topside, and some wood has been removed from this section to give it a rounded contour. Tarkas do not have thumbholes on their reverse sides (detail # 2). Just below the blowing-end of the instrument a deep gouge is made in the instrument that penetrates into its bore and leaves a sharp edge (detail #3). A small beak is carved at the upper terminus of the flute, and this is partially filled with a tongue-like insert that is situated in such a way that it produces a duct that directs the air passing through it directly against the sharp edge mentioned previously.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

A performer holds the tarka using both hands, his thumbs against the instrument’s backside and the first three fingers of each hand dedicated to operating the fingerholes on the frontside. With overblowing, a tarka has a range of about two-and-one-half octaves. Tarkas, as mentioned above, are played in consorts that can include up to three sizes called (in Peru): tayka (lowest register), ankuta (middle register), and suli (highest register). The tarkas pictured and described here are a tayka (gallery #1) and an ankuta (gallery #2). They are not from the same consort (these were most likely made for sale to tourists), and therefore the relative tuning of their heptatonic scales (E3 to B5 for gallery #1 and C4 to G5 for gallery #2) is not separated by the interval of a P5, as would be the case with instruments from the same set (in such a consort, the suli would be tuned an octave above the tayka). Regardless of their relative size, tarkas are blown strongly and produce a reedy timbre (tara) in which the first overtone is nearly as strong as the pitch’s fundamental. A tropa or tarkeada consort will typically include at least a few players of all three sizes or tarkas along with a marching-style bass drum and one or a few snare drums. In the performance heard in audio #1, fourteen players of tayka and ankuta tarkas are heard (no suli) along with a bass drum and a snare drum (Cohen and Turino 1994, p. 11).

Origins/History/Evolution

Because no end-blown duct flutes dating back to pre-Columbian times have been unearthed in the High Andes, it is speculated that the origin of the tarka was after the arrival of Europeans to this region in the 16th century (Turino 1998, p. 207).

Bibliographic Citations

Cohen, John, and Thomas Turino. 1994. Mountain Music of Peru, volume II. One CD with liner notes. Smithsonian Folkways SF CD 40406.

González, Juan Pablo. 1998. “Chile.” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 2: South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Olsen, Dale A., and Daniel E. Sheehy, eds. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., pp. 356-375.

Schechter, John M. 2014. “Tarka.” GDMI v.4: 718.

Stobart, Henry. 1998. “Bolivia.” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 2: South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Olsen, Dale A., and Daniel E. Sheehy, eds. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., pp. 282-299.

Turino, Thomas. 1998. “Quechua and Aymara.” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 2: South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Olsen, Dale A., and Daniel E. Sheehy, eds. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., pp. 205-224.

 

Instrument Information

Origins

Continent: Americas

Region: South America

Nation: Bolivia, Chile, Peru

Formation: Aymara

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

421.221.12 aerophone--single open flute with internal duct: the duct is inside the tube; with fingerholes

Design and Playing Features

Category: aerophone

Air cavity design: tubular - cylindrical with open distal end

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

Energy transducer that activates sound: beveled edge in wall of instrument, indirectly blown against with aid of duct

Means of modifying shape and dimensions of standing wave in air cavity: opening fingerholes to reduce space or shorten length of standing wave in air cavity

Overblowing utilization: overblowing at consecutive partials

Pitch production: multiple pitches - changing length of standing wave within cavity with fingerholes and by selecting partials through overblowing

Dimensions

gallery #1: 13 in. length gallery #2: 19.8 in. length

Primary Materials

wood

Entry Author

Roger Vetter