Traditional sounds power sextet

By Noah Lopez

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A hodge-podge of Latin American sounds will come together this Saturday night as local Bwiya-Toli makes their first Tucson concert appearance of 1995.

The six-piece group boasts members from Chile and Mexico, all playing a full range of Andean instruments. Cane flutes, guitars, and pan-pipes blend with the charango (a stringed instrument made from an armadillo shell) and various percussion played on drums, rain sticks and goat-hoof rattles.

The Wildcat had the opportunity to talk to member Jacobo Ramirez about the band's unique sound and instrumentation.

Wildcat: When did you start playing?

Jacobo Ramirez: I've been playing since I was 15 ... Basically I was interested in the guitar ─ I was getting into the wave of Spanish music ─and from there I started playing different instruments. I just kept learning.

WC: How did Bwiya-Toli come together?

JR: Right now the lineup is about two years old, but the band has been in existence for 17 years.

WC: What's the music like?

JR: We play Latin American folk music. Especially for this concert, we've concentrated on the Andean music. So we play the instruments from that region. For instance, we play the pan-pipes. We also play a little guitar called the Charango. It's very small. It has ten strings and the resonant box is made from an armadillo shell. We also have a drum that is called the bombo leguro. We play some of the pre-Colombian instruments like the rain sticks and the goat hooves. Also one of the oldest flutes from Latin America that exists, called the quena. It's basically a bamboo flute with no mouthpiece. It's one of the most difficult instruments to play.

WC: How did you learn to play these instruments?

JR: We're all self taught. This type of music is not the kind of music that comes in music sheets. You just have to like it and try it. Everything we do, we do by ear.

WC: Where do you get your instruments? Do you make them yourselves or ...

JR: The materials we need to get, we get from South America. But the pan-pipes and some of the others we get (from South America) aren't in tune so we have to tune them ourselves. With a guitar to tune it you just tighten the strings with a peg. With the flutes it's more involved. You have to shorten a piece of pipe or lengthen a pipe. That's part of what makes us so proud to be playing those instruments. They're a part of ourselves.

Bwiya-Toli will perform at the Berger Performing Arts Center on Saturday at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are $8 with a $1 discount for students. Get them at Hear's Music, Bentley's, Antigone Books and Loco Records. For more information, call 327-4809.

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