9 Banded Armadillo Backed Charango

Armadillo Backed Charango (Front)

Armadillo Ukulele
Amy the Armadillo Ukulele
Bolivia Peru Charango
 Charango Armadillo back

Armadillo Backed Charango (Back)

I'm told is tuned GG~cc~Ee~AA~ee
(this is an Am7th chord)

9 Banded Armadillo Backed Charango

A long time ago, before I started to invite Ukuleles to come and live in the corner, I found myself in La Pas, Bolivia, (as you do), and in that town there is a street of luthiers. Its really nice all these little shops selling a variety of Chordophones, a lot of which are made in little workshops out the back (Well that was my understanding, my espaniol is not great). This meant they had a variety of different instruments on sale and the stock of one shop was different to the next, (though they all mainly worked in a very similar style). Though they all had acoustic Guitars in abundance they also had a lot of examples of Andean folk instruments, and in Bolivia that means the Charango.

There were a few different styles of Charango available, one made like Guitars and Ukuleles with a top sides and back as separate pieces of wood, then joined, ones where the back and sides were carved out of a single block, usually bowl backed, there were even a few solid electric Charangos (it is a popular instrument there). And then there was the very traditional ones with a cedar top and the body made out of the cured skin of a 9 banded armadillo, (the rest of the body having been used for a very tasty stew). What I didn't see at the time was any Ronrocos or Waylachos the other scale lengths of the instrument?

Well I knew it would be interesting to bring back to the UK and possibly not allowed, (however I checked and could find nothing on the government website to suggest it or things like it were prohibited - I didn't get it out and ask at the border though, (but Sammy the customs sniffer dog thought it was ok to bring into the country, she works for Customs so thats good enough for me.), and I knew no-one would believe there were ones made of armadillo if I brought back an all wood one even if it was one of the bowl back variety that were carved to look like armadillos so I went for the real Armadillo backed model

As a medium for containing and reflecting the sound, the armadillo works surprisingly well, which is probably why they still do it, but it does look a little odd though and my sister-in-law doesn't like it, (on my return to the UK I gave the Charango to my brother as a present, as at the time he was the man with the collection of instruments). It is quite delicate though and I would think if you played it a lot eventually you would damage the back and have to replace it, (9 banded Armadillos are very common and even count as vermin is some parts of the world; plus you still have to eat, so not that big a problem so long as you know how to cure the skin and attach it to the soundboard). My brother doesn't play it a lot though partly because of his wife and partly because it has 10 strings in 5 courses is tuned oddly, (though in some ways similar to a Ukulele?) and he is unsure as to how to play it - He has christened the Armadillo Amy though