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The traditional charango according to Bonny Alberto Terán

One of the most important exponents of the traditional Bolivian charango is undoubtedly Bonny Alberto Terán. Few can boast such a significant career that has made him a reference for the k’alampeado style not only in Bolivia but worldwide. In 2019, he received numerous honors for his 50th year of artistic activity.

Bonny Alberto Terán
Bonny Alberto Terán

Bonny Alberto Terán, whose real name is Bonifacio, was born in Caripuyo, a small town in the deep province of the magical area of the Andean highlands known as Norte de Potosí. Why magical? Because it is perhaps the area most densely populated with traditions, songs, music, and musicians where the charango is not just a musical instrument but a living, active cultural heritage, an essential element of the daily lives of individuals and the community. Although it is difficult to say with certainty, it is very likely that the famous k’alampeado style, one of the oldest, most rural, and purest expressions of the charango, originated here.

Bonny Alberto Terán started playing at a very young age. As often happened back then, he learned by listening to and imitating his father, who was also a charanguista. Over time, however, he began to achieve particular success, which led him to decide to dedicate himself exclusively to music. This path led him to encounter Lauro Dischi in the 1960s. This was a crucial meeting, as Lauro was the first and most important Bolivian music production label that, thanks to a keen vision, hosted many musicians in its studio who were willing to record their songs. Many artists destined to write the history of Andean music came from Lauro’s studios and the festivals it organized: the most famous probably being, in addition to Bonny himself, the group Los Kjarkas and the group Amaru.

The success of Bonny Alberto Terán’s recordings was practically immediate and so overwhelming that Lauro had to purchase new pressing machines to meet the growing demand. Although he was not the only one playing k’alampeado for Lauro’s microphones, he was the only one doing so with such a distinctive style.

A new cultural wave

According to a great charango master, Alfredo Coca, it can be said that Bonny’s work has been so significant that it gave rise to a cultural movement, being the first to bring rural music, with its specific style, into the urban context.

It was music known by few because it wasn’t released on records and continued to be discriminated against. But when Bonny started recording, people began to appreciate the poetry of Quechua, the rhythm, and that uniquely our flavor in which even city habitant found their identity.

Alfredo Coca

University students began to sing his most famous songs: Basta Corazón, Caripuyo Torrecita, which became well-known throughout the country and were in vogue. Thus, a cultural movement of great appreciation for traditional cultural heritage was born in Bolivia.

Bonny is a legend for many people who have learned to appreciate his music without ever meeting him in person… it was his music that was heard. For many people, it was like an apparition. The value he has for our culture should make us proud. This richness can bring about cultural changes, and we must be proud of it because it comes from our land, our customs, and our traditions.

Alfredo Coca
The secret of k’alampeo

Bonny’s k’alampeo is both intricate and flowing. His rhythmic figures follow the melody naturally but are difficult to imitate precisely because of his strong personality. In fact, while it may be challenging for many to distinguish charanguistas playing k’alampeado at first listen, Bonny Alberto Terán remains unmistakable even to those less familiar with the genre. What is the secret to his style?

In April 2022, I had the great honor and pleasure of being welcomed into the home of Bonny Alberto Terán, who agreed to grant an exclusive interview. In his studio, an incredible wunderkammer filled with memorabilia, relics, instruments, photographs, and especially dozens of awards received throughout a life of artistic achievements, I had the chance to ask him many questions about his origins and the nature of his unique style. This interview has been divided into various thematic parts and will be published on the channel. For your convenience, you will also find them below as they are released. Enjoy listening.

The Roots of Bonny Alberto Terán’s Charango | Episode 1

Here is the first episode of this exclusive interview series with Bonny Alberto Terán, recorded at his home in Cochabamba. It will allow you to get an up-close look not only at his life but also at the meaning behind the music of this great artist. In this episode, Bonny tells us how the charango and music entered his life at a very young age and where the styles and inspirations that shaped him into the artist he is today come from. An important relationship in his musical career was with his father: a great musician himself, recognized in his community in the Norte de Potosí area. As a child, Bonny secretly played his father’s charango, trying to imitate him. This is exactly how traditional musicians have learned to play for generations: through inheritance.

The Success of Bonny Alberto Terán and His K’alampeo: From Caripuyo to the World | Episode 2

In the second episode of the interview, Bonny tells us how he achieved success with his music. For those who know him today, success may seem normal, but Bonny’s beginnings trace back to simply enjoying sharing music with friends at parties. It was only due to the insistence of those closest to him that Bonny decided to knock on the door of Lauro Dischi – perhaps the most important record label for its contribution to the spread of traditional music. It was a historical period where playing k’alampeo meant asserting one’s rural origins and facing indifference or, worse, discrimination from mestizos and city dwellers. Yet, as Bonny himself says, “the record was released and it was like a bomb.” It was the beginning of Bonny Alberto Terán’s revolution: Bolivia was filled with people who identified with his music, and k’alampeo became a true statement of identity for many.

K’alampeo Will Never Die | Episode 3

What is K’alampeo? No one could explain it better than Bonny Alberto Terán. The third episode of the interview takes us straight to the heart of the music from Norte Potosí, delving into the oldest traditions of Bolivian music. K’alampeo originated as music for celebrations and work in the countryside, accompanying almost every moment of daily life. It’s a unique style of performance that has no comparison and, according to Bonny, originates from the very gesture of strumming the charango. It’s as if it’s an innate technique of the charango itself.