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Music in Bolivia - Culture - Bolivia

Music is an integral part of Bolivia's Andean culture. The Bolivian people use music to celebrate every major event, and the streets never lack for musical entertainment. Throughout the country, songs are written and performed in honor of different festivals, rituals and important agricultural events. The music is entwined with dances, and while traveling throughout Bolivia you will see a new band in every neighborhood, often accompanied by lively dancers in colorful twirling skirts. The importance of music and Bolivians' love for their music is especially prominent during Carnaval and other major festivals. Each region of Bolivia has a uniquely distinct style of music, much of which still strongly reflects its pre-Inca heritage.


Bolivia has an abundance of traditional instruments that date back to before the Spanish conquest.

  • Probably the most well-known are the panpipes. Panpipes are made of bamboo tubes, tied together in a row or a double row.
  • Quenas, also traditional of the Andeans, are simple flutes made from bamboo.
  • The famous tiny Andean guitar, the charango, is made out of an armadillo shell and has twelve strings.
  • Other typical instruments you should check out include tarkas, pinquillos and moseños.


In western Bolivia the people are more connected to their Andean roots, and their music reflects that. Much of the music focuses on retelling the legends of the Aymara, Quechua, and Tiahuanacota peoples. Panpipes, flutes, guitars and drums abound, and the music can range from melancholy to extremely high-spirited. The most popular dances that accompany music in western Bolivia are the  caporal, tinku, cueca, cumbia and the saya.


In Amazonian eastern Bolivia, there is a noticeable difference in musical style. The music is lively and always accompanied by a festive dance, but it does not have the Andean influences that western Bolivia has. Some of these eastern styles are typical of the Guaraní, Ayoreos and other  Amazonian tribes; but a significant portion of eastern Bolivia was actually influenced by the Jesuits. In the late 1500s when the Jesuits arrived in Chiquitania, a large area in eastern Bolivia, they brought with them the classical barroque music that was thriving in Europe during that time. Today, you will still find the Chiquitanos making violins and performing their barroque music in different parts of the world.


Bolivia has not remained untouched by modern music, however. As far as international influence, Bolivians are generally more drawn to European music than American music. Within Bolivia's borders, a significant amount of rock groups have popped up in recent years, and some of them have even gained international recognition.


Bolivian music gained its greatest international fame not through one of its native bands, but actually through Simon & Garfunkel. The American duo translated the well-known Bolivian song, “El Cóndor Pasa,” into English lyrics and made it an international hit. Internationally recognized Bolivian bands include Los Jairas, Wara, Savia Andina, Los K'jarkas and Grupo Aymara. In general, Andean groups catering to tourists gain a greater international reputation, giving the world the perception that all Bolivian music is strictly Andean. Emma Junaro became one of Bolivia's most famous singers when she transformed Chile's nueva canción into canto nuevo, a musical style comprised of harmonized singing and a blend of Andean and Latin instruments.

Culture, Culture and Arts, Info., Other Info.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Bolivia: Culture Intro and Culture Centers .

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