The Andean regions of the countries of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile (north to south) are among the richest in the world with consideration to a variety of musical and folkloric traditions. Long before the Spanish conquest, and even much before the Inca civilization, the diverse native cultures of the region had rich and sophisticated musical traditions. Historians and archaeologists have discovered ancient tombs which have yielded flutes, trumpets, drums, and many more musical artifacts. Many ceramic jars found in ancient tombs depict musical instruments being used in various contexts (shamanism, propitiation to the gods, hunting, dancing) that are difficult to interpret. Music was evidently a central and imperative aspect in the human and supernatural worlds of ancient Andean people.
With the coming of the Spanish conquerors in the latter half of the sixteenth century, accompanied by Catholic missionaries and African slaves, additional musical idioms were introduced:.
[T]he pulsating rhythms of the bombo, and the congo beats permeate that which we call Andean music. Its culture is one of great contrast, but also of profound and remarkable unity. It is even more remarkable that cultures of such distinct and unparalleled histories (Spain, The Andes and Africa) could produce such vibrant and invigorating music. The Andean mixed culture dominates the music scene even today, and will continue to demand an even grander following in the years to come. (List 176).
Today, three primary racial and cultural strains exist - Native, African and Spanish. These representative regions are unique to the Andes, and have blended together to form the racial and cultural amalgams known as mestizo (mixed European and Native American Heritage) and criollo (Spanish-American). .
The Andes are united by several cultural/musical factors, including patron saint festivals that reveal a fusion of Roman Catholicism and indigenous beliefs; the ubiquitous wayno dance music and its many variations, the original Spanish guitar and other European instruments.