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Learning the charango with the masters

Aprendiendo con maestros: learning Charango with the masters

During a study trip to Bolivia in the spring of 2022, I had the great pleasure of spending a few days in Potosí, where I was invited to play at the Potosí Cuna del Charango festival (by the way, if you want to see the festival video, click here).

It was also an opportunity to launch a project I’m deeply passionate about. I conducted a series of interviews with two outstanding Potosí musicians and dear friends, Cristobal Corso (charanguista) and Gabriel Meneses (guitarist). Together, we delved into their techniques, styles, and musical intentions. I posed key questions to uncover the secrets behind their unique musical sound. From my perspective, this project is crucial as it provides accessible and well-organized information, sparing the need to travel to Bolivia and seek out top-tier musicians willing to share their expertise. Believe me, this task is more challenging than it seems. I named this initiative APRENDIENDO CON MAESTROS, as it offers a direct insight into the minds of charango and Andean music masters, providing an authentic learning experience.

However, it’s essential to recognize that what Cristobal and Gabriel showcase represents just one facet of Andean music. They specialize in a predominantly urban style, occasionally incorporating elements of k’alampeo. While these distinctions may not be immediately discernible, Bolivia alone demonstrates significant variations in the performance of Huayño or Cueca. Each region boasts its unique characteristics, with Potosí standing out in this regard. The format our maestros present is the quintessential conjunto, featuring guitar and charango as the foundational duo, complemented by additional instruments as required: percussion, quena, saxophone, among others.

Explore the opportunity to learn charango directly from maestros through our charango classes. Gain insights into techniques, styles, and the rich tradition of Andean music online.

How is Aprendiendo Con Maestros structured?

It consists of a series of interviews freely available on the YouTube channel. Each video covers a specific topic:

  • The Bolivian Cueca: What it is, how to play it, and the techniques for charango.
  • The Huayño: Two videos are dedicated to this essential rhythm to understand it thoroughly. One cannot ignore Huayño when studying the charango!
  • Fundamental Techniques and Styles: What techniques have emerged in recent decades and who are the masters that developed them.
  • How to Develop Your Own Style and Sound on the Charango: Experiment with different rhythms, techniques, and musical influences while staying true to your personal expression and creativity
  • Charango and Guitar: The dialogue between the instruments. This is a complex topic, crucial for understanding the dynamics and roles played by the two instruments. Without these dynamics, a charango and guitar duo will never sound authentic.
  • Listening Sessions: I asked Gabriel and Cristobal to treat us to some pieces to listen to and find all the observations and techniques discussed so far.

I strongly believe in the value of this work, and I am confident that it will be a valuable resource for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of an important expression of Andean music. Happy studying!