THE KENA (QUENA FLUTE)

The quena is the customary flute of the Andes. It has different terms used to specify it including hispanicized spelling of Quechua qina, also written kena in English language.

It has 6 finger holes and is traditionally made of wood or cane. It consists of one thumb hole, and is usually open at both ends or the bottom is choked. The player closes the top end of the pipe in order to produce sound with the flesh between the chin and lower lip, and a stream of air is blown downward, along the alliance with the pipe, over an oval notch cut into the end. It is typically in the key of G, with G4 being the rock bottom note with all holes covered.

The size and shape of the blow-hole of the kena is of prime importance and significant regarding the prospective volume, tone and the precision of the octave. Its notch is designed differently in several regions, and changes even conferring to shape it may be U or V shaped, angular, presenting various proportions and fleeting forms that even blend with each other. The angular air notch is indistinguishable from that of flutes. The most significant difference between the common flute and the quena is presented by the closed upper end of the flute by a stopper, and a thin stream of air channels which blow air to the air notch; in the result, the shape and size of the air column does not change.

 The totally open upper end of the quena is covered by the player and he plays flute whilst supporting it with the lower lip and chin. The breadth of the air column, its shape and direction are synchronized by the lips in fact, it is necessary to learn how to sound the instrument for players much in the same way as the traverse flute. The quena flute produces highest and the deepest flute sounds.

Traditionally Quena is frequently used in Andean music. Quena was used in 1960s and 1970s by several nueva canción music experts. This use was credited to particular cases of songs. It was not used as a standard instrument, but some groups of musicians such as virtuoso player Facio Santillan have used Quena regularly. It was also incorporated in some of the songs by some post-nueva rock groups; Remarkably Soda Stereo  and Los Enanitos Verdes in Lamento Boliviano. The quena is also pretty much common in world music. Quenas are generally played in pairs and in harmony. In Peru, white quenas can be seen made from the leg-bone of the condor.

According to popular beliefs the instrument quena was also used to whip due to which it was used as threat for children. “vamos a ir a la quena” was the sentence told to children to scare them in the region of Andes.

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