LDS Group Performs Music of the Andes to “Soar with the Condor”

Contributed By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 4 May 2016

Los Hermanos de los Andes performs at the Church History Museum April 21 for the Evenings at the Museum Lecture Series. From left are Elias Perez, Luis Gonzalo Zurita, Edgar Zurita, Victor Soto, Alvaro Salazar, and Juan Soto.  Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

More than a quarter century ago, four engineering students at Brigham Young University hailing from different parts of South America discovered they had a mutual love of Andean folk music from Latin America.

“We got together, and that’s where it started,” said Edgar Zurita, describing the origin of Los Hermanos de los Andes. “It was just a wonderful coincidence and a long-lasting experience.”

Brother Zurita took time out from a sound check for a conversation with the Church News just before the now six-man group performed an April 21 concert in the Church History Museum, the latest event in the Evenings at the Museum Lecture Series.

Coming originally from Cochabamba, Bolivia, Brother Zurita formed the group at BYU in 1989 with his brother, Luis, and Alvaro Salazar and David Done.

“Some came into the group and left, some graduated from BYU and then went on to work elsewhere,” said Brother Zurita. “The ones that stayed here are the ones that stayed in the group. And it’s been a wonderful ride.”

Elias Perez plays an Incan style pan flute called a zampoña. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Today, in addition to the Zurita brothers and Brother Salazar, who comes from Santiago, Chile, Los Hermanos includes Elias Perez from Puebla, Mexico, and Victor and Juan Soto, from Concepcion, Chile.

The group plays mostly wind instruments, the form of which dates back to the Inca civilization predating the birth of Christ.

“They’re made of bamboo, most of them; some are of wood,” Brother Zurita said.

They play flutes from two families.

One is the zampoña, an Incan style pan flute with bamboo pipes ranging from large to smaller.

The other family of flute is the quena, the traditional flute of the Andes. Similar to a recorder, it has six holes in front, one in back, and one on the bottom.

“It doesn’t have a mouthpiece,” Brother Zurita pointed out. “Our lips are the mouthpiece.”

The music is rounded out with drums and conventional guitars as well as other stringed instruments—some smaller and some larger—that stem from the instruments brought by Spaniards when they came to South America from Europe and the natives adapted the instruments and created their own.

The music evokes a feeling of “soaring with the condor” (the theme of their concert) with an exotic sound from the flutes and other instruments and sound effects that simulate the winds and wildlife of the Andes.

The group has performed in various venues in the United States (including Hawaii), Canada, Mexico, Central America, Europe, and Asia.

Audience members interact on stage with Los Hermanos des los Andes. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

A favorite performance venue for them has been the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City, where they have been featured in the periodic Latino program put on by the Church, Luz de las Naciones: Sus Promesas.

“How blessed we are to perform there, because we know there are many other musicians around the world that are LDS who would love to be part of that,” Brother Zurita said.

In addition to sheer love for the music and the culture, the group has stayed together out of a sense of brotherhood—after all, Los Hermanos de los Andes means “the brothers of the Andes.”

“Even though we are from different countries, we are brothers, and we feel like such, and that’s what has kept the group together,” Brother Zurita said.

Much of that feeling of brotherhood comes from their membership in the Church.

“We have been blessed to do quite a bit of work for the Church and for different Church programs,” he said, “and I attribute the longevity of the group to that. We are not only friends, we have not only the common denominator of being Hispanic, but we are also friends in the gospel, and that has created a tighter friendship and brotherhood that has made it just a wonderful thing.”