Matsigenka Instruments

Musical instruments in the Indigenous world represent a deep link to rituals and festivities, as well as a special communication with nature. Through sound we can approach the meaning and tradition of the Matsigenka people. Each instrument has its own history and purpose. Some are designed to accompany ritual songs and dances, while others are used for sacred ceremonies or to transmit ancestral knowledge. Most instruments are made from materials obtained from nature, such as bones, wood, reeds, hides or animal skins.

Exploring and learning about Indigenous musical instruments gives us the opportunity to approach a fascinating universe of sound and invites us to appreciate, value and respect Indigenous musical diversity, recognizing the importance of preserving and disseminating its use, which is in worrying decline.


The mouth harp, known as pegonpirintsi in Matsigenka culture, is a traditional instrument that was used by the seripegari or shamans in ayahuasca ceremony rituals. Nowadays, few people know the art of making this instrument.

The construction of the pegonpirintsi is made with two different types of fibers: tsigeroshi, tsigiro and tirote or huingo palm. The manufacturing process consists of carefully filing the fiber until a finish is obtained that allows a flexible bow to be made, which is attached to a thin string at the bottom. The ends are adjusted with a knot, thus forming a small harp. To produce the sound, it is placed near the mouth, which acts as a sounding board, and a short ribbon is used to rub the strings, similar to a small violin.


The manufacture of the drum or tambor is exclusive to men. Materials extracted from the forest are used, such as topa (water wood) or mantoa, a hard wood that is now difficult to access. Also used are the cético fibre and animal skins such as the sajino, monkey and otorongo, the latter being used to make large drums. In addition, Huayruro and SaraSara seeds are used to give them a special sound.

The drums are used in festivities and ancestral dances that represented sounds of animals or birds of the mountain, such as the dance of the pucacunga (bird), or the dance of the trumpeter bird. For example, a woman had to win or catch the drummer, who represented the sound of these birds. These interpreted, perhaps, a daily scene of bird hunting, as Romelia tells us:

"It was about a song that is of animal, for example, the pucacunga or trumpeter to its rhythm of that they play, then the women already knew how to dance, they formed their group, and one of the ladies had some ornaments part of their men, that is what gave the sound, depending on the sound that the drummer is going to play, when we say they catch the drummer, the woman has already beaten him" - Romelia, Shipetiari, 2023.

Nowadays, the use of drums has significantly decreased, and they have been replaced by music broadcasted through sound systems during festivities or gatherings.


The zampoña or sonkárintsi is one of the wind instruments that was used on special occasions, in Matsigenka culture and is made by the men. The materials used in the manufacture of the panpipes are cane and bamboo. Each tube emits a special sound when blown and is tied with native cotton threads.