Paraguayan traditional music

According to most historians, missionaries, travelers, etc… the Guaraníes had a natural character and great talent for art and music. They learned to play the musical instruments with great facility which was introduced in the Missions by the missionaries, which some of them were extraordinary teachers. This highlighted and facilitated to play the instruments, to read the notes and to listen to the music.

In the actual Paraguayan music today, however, Indian influences are not much shown. Juan Max Boettner says: “en nuestra música no hay influencia indígena, ni en la melodía, ni en la rítmica, ni por el carácter defectivo de las escalas nativas. No hay supervivencia de ningún músico nativo, ni idiófonos ni membranófonos. Nuestros conjuntos populares no conocen el tambor, ni la percusión ni las flautas indígenas. No cultivamos ni un solo baile nativo…Hay, sí, una evidente influencia nativa en la letra de los cantos.” In English translation it translates, “In our music there is no Indian influence, not in the melody nor in the rhythm. There is no surviving Indian instrument, not in the drums or flute. We didn’t cultivate even one native dance, but yes, there is one evident influence in a language (referring to guaraní). The instruments most used in the popular music now are actually influenced by the Spanish: guitars, harps, violins, flutes, etc…

During José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia’s dictatorship, the popular music was a great success because he organized military bands nationwide; he facilitated musical instrument import (clarinet, trumpet, violin, triangles, etc…), and the State shop sold strings for harps and guitars in a low price.

One of the most known Paraguayan music and the oldest is the polka parguaya. The name polka was born in Bohemia in 1830 and came to Río de la Plata in 1845. It is also known as galopa, a dance with rapid rhythm. Juan Max Boettner created the Paraguayan polka as a characteristic dance and rhythm, y created its own identity.

Paraguayan polka has a rhythm and its own characters. It is fast, vibrant exciting and sometimes, polyrhythmic. Usually the polka with rapid rhythm is not sung with.

Polca Canción is also called purahéi, techaga’ú, and consists of a slow rhythm to be sung with. The purahéi jahe’ó is a sad song. Musicians also included the sound they listened within their environment and nature in their songs. (Ex: Tren lechero be Félix Pérez Cardozo)

Galopa (polka galopa) is a type of polka with an upbeat rhythm. It’s purpose was not to be sung. The galopa is danzed with a pair interlaced, like the polka itself.

The Guarania was commenced by José Asunción Flores created in the early 20th century, made a huge and profound impact and was popular. The Guaranía is a song with a slow rhythm and melancholic. The Guaranía has its own dance to be danced.

Harps were very important musical instruments to Paraguay and still retain its place. From times immemorial the Guaraní have been using simple wind and percussion instruments, especially flutes made of wood, whistles, rattles, and bells. The guitar and the harp, which were brought to Paraguay by the early Spanish settlers, are the basic instruments of contemporary Paraguayan music.

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