Fair Trade – Buying Instruments in Peru
I’m in cusco, and I found your website while searching for how to shop ethically while in Peru. I am particularly interested in musical instruments. Do you have any reccomendations or contacts you could share with me?
I will put you in touch with Guillermo Seminario, the musical director of Chimu Inka in Cusco.
There are a two things to consider when purchasing instruments in Peru, 1. Buying locally, and 2. quality:
First, regarding Fair Trade, the only thing to watch out for are guitars that may be manufactured in China, otherwise all other guitars, and all zampoñas and flutes will be either be made locally in the town or village, or on the coast such as Lima or Trujillo and shipped up to the mountain Gringo Trail towns in Peru.
Regarding quality, there are tourist grade instruments and professional grade which are calibrated at 440 hz (concert pitch) by the maker. And even with pro grade, it can be difficult to know you’re really getting concert pitch instruments unless you happen to carry an electronic tuner with you.
Guillermo Seminario, USA/Peru Music Exchange and Cusco Music Exchange Program Director for Mountain Spirit Institute, makes all his own flutes and zampoñas, and a cousin of his is in the charango manufacturing business on the coast.
I showed him a cheap version of a chromatic double row zampoña which I purchased in Bolivia, and he made a professional grade one, improving on the one I showed him. It’s top-notch and a real work horse, sound great, has a good tone and is made with spirit. It’s featured on our website’s fair trade page.
I’ve watched him make the zampoñas and he knows what he’s doing. He actually goes to a supplier that sells the individual bamboo tubes in different notes, but he takes his tuner, and selects only the best tubes, and then takes them home to fine tune them even further.
As I mentioned he also makes his own “quenas” or cane flutes, with traditional bone mouthpiece and wood bodies. This are high quality as well. He usually uses the best of the best to perform with, and is ready to sell them after a gig if he has a willing buyer.
I’ll put you in touch with Guillermo, so you can pick out something in person with him in Cusco, but check out the webpage to browse what we have to offer. All proceeds, after a small MSI admin expense, goes to Guillermo for making the instrument.