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The Colombian Andean Bandola

The Colombian Andean Bandola

by Luis Alberto Paredes Rodríguez and Manuel Bernal Martínez

previously published in American Lutherie #96, 2008

The Colombian Andean bandola is a transcultural product similar to plectrum-played antecedents from Asia and Europe. It is a 12-string, 6-course soprano instrument with “flat” top and back, and is the solo melodic instrument in the Colombian Andean quartet, which consists of two bandolas, a tiple (see Big Red Book Volume Seven, previously published in AL#82), and a classical guitar.

The name “bandola” comes from the old Persian-Arabic word pandura. Derived from the name of the European lute, the word refers to a great variety of instruments of medium and high register with melodic functions. The direct ancestor of the bandola is the guitar through the Spanish bandurria and the soprano guitars, and which after taking its form in Colombia during the 19th and 20th centuries, continues to undergo transformations in its morphology and usage.

The Colombian Andean bandola has two developmental lineages: on one hand, the denomination line which makes reference to its name, and on the other, the construction line which makes reference to its morphological features (Bernal, 2003). The name of the bandola comes from the pandura (known since the 10th century) following the European lute, and one of its families known as the “mandoras family.” These 4- to 6-course instruments with thin bodies had a variety of pitches (a mixture of perfect fourths and fifths) and scale lengths ranging between 37CM and 42CM. By the year 1700, the mandolines emerged in Italy when the size of the mandola was reduced, prevailing and persisting in Italy in two different models: the Milanese mandoline with a thin, slightly arched body, and six courses of either gut or metal strings tuned in perfect fourths; and the Neapolitan mandolin with a bowl back body, a cranked (bent) soundboard just where the bridge is placed, four courses of metal strings tuned like a violin, and strings fastened to the end of the body by way of a tailpiece. The scale for both models is about 32CM to 34CM. In the 18th century, mandolins began to be manufactured with flat or slightly arched sides and back, especially in France, Germany, and Portugal.

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