Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Music and Dance > Mapuche

Música Mapuche

The music of the Mapuche people has been played for thousands of years. Although it has transformed and adapted over time, the sound continues to be profoundly local, distinct from other vernacular music on the continent. Among the Mapuche people the machi or shaman is considered the expert singer. Through song, he or she connects to the world of the spirits, speaking with them and bringing their messages back to the world of people. These messages are accompanied by the rhythmic cadence of the kultrun, a magic drum covered in symbols and loaded with sacred objects. The song must be powerful, as it is the means by which the people connect to the spirit world. Because of this, Mapuche songs deal with a wide variety of situations, from the most intimate to the epic and awe-inspiring. The unique rhythmic, melodic chanting of the machi is powerful and varied, and structures the entire Mapuche musical repertory.

For the Mapuche people, music is a form of expression and is not played for recreation (no vernacular tradition has a word for “music” as we understand it). It is a way of conveying ideas, expressing emotions and communicating the interior self, and for this reason it does not matter whether one is a “good” or “bad” musician; it is much more important to say what one has to say in one’s own way. In effect, all of the Mapuche instruments—the trumpets (trutruka, ñolkin, kullkull), flutes (pifilcas), drums (kultrun, kakelkultrun) and others (trompe, kaskahuilla, wada)—offer different ways of saying what words cannot express.