top of page
Traditional rhythm from Esmeraldas (Ecuador) arranged and directed by José Pino

Performed by the Swiss ensemble Die Saitenharmoniker under the direction of José Pino in Santago Calatrava's Pfalzkeller forum in St. Gallen, the traditional Afro-Ecuadorian rhythm Andarele becomes a vibrant component in the process of communication between cultures.


José Pino: arrangement and direction

Anna Schuster: marimbaphone

Yann Hofstetter, Stefan Grob, Gioacchino Kade: dulcimer

Noemi von Falten: harp

Lena Schirm, Jessica Tran, Christian Bissig: ukulele

Maximilan Alaska, Paula Herrmann, Martin Grob, Jeremia Kohler, Nayla Stutz, Anna Tran, Cai Zeindler: guitar

Adelina Podolny: e-guitar

Gabriel Meyer: e-bass

Amélie Luftensteiner, Linn Loock: cello

World premiere: 22 June 2024  |  Pfalzkeller, St. Gallen, Switzerland

Buy musical score

Arrangement © 2023 José Pino  |  photos and video © 2024 Martina Knecht  |  Die Saitenharmoniker is an ensemble of the Music College of the City of St. Gallen, Switzerland

The origins of the Andarele

Afro-Ecuadorian culture is a result of the transatlantic slave trade. In 1533, 23 enslaved Africans managed to escape a Spanish slave ship that capsized on the Pacific Coast. The group settled in the Esmeraldas province where they established a free community. «In Esmeraldas’ calm beaches and tropical weather,» says the Ecuadorian anthropologist Gabriel Brito, «they found an environment that reminded them of their home. Combined with the unique features of their surroundings, they formed a new culture that is now part of Ecuadorian identity.»


Systemic disadvantages have led to higher rates of poverty and crime in the Esmeralda region, while insufficient infrastructure has kept throngs of tourists from visiting. But things are slowly improving thanks to a series of grassroots campaigns that highlight a group of people that have played such a pivotal role in Ecuador's history. While Afro-Ecuadorians make up about 10% of the country's population, their impact on Ecuador's food, music and traditions is undeniable. Imported from West Africa, marimba music is perhaps the most popular genre to emerge from the Esmeraldas region. Played on an instrument of the same name, a palm-wood xylophone with bamboo tube resonators, the music weaves itself into daily life, acting as a form of oral history that keeps communities connected.

The Andarele, one of the traditional rhythms of the Esmeraldas region, has a polka and pasodoble influence, while for some inhabitants of the sierra, it's like the coastal Sanjuanito. The Andarele has its origins in the countryside, where it emerged to celebrate festivities, enlivened with marimba, guitar, bass drum, cununo and guasá; in some areas, Andean instruments are even used. It dates back to many years ago, when people from the inter-Andean region came to the northern towns of Esmeraldas to sell their merchandise and were infected with the song of the Andarele. The director of Tierra Negra Internacional, Jonathan Minota, confirms that today this rhythm is danced in Afro-Ecadorian settlements across Ecuador, from the coast to the sierra, and even in the Amazon and Galapagos. According to tradition, the Andarele is danced at the end of the festivities as a farewell dance.

The Andarele as a cultural vector

In 2024, the Ecuadorian composer and educator José Pino earned public acclaim when he presented Andarele to Swiss audiences in the historic Neue Pfalz cellars in St. Gallen, which have been transformed by architect Santiago Calatrava into a futuristic concert forum.


Performed by the music student ensemble Die Saitenharmoniker, in José Pino's Andarele the marimba and hammered dulcimers (an instrument of the Swiss music tradition) converge with a guitar and ukulele orchestra, harp and cellos to create innovative sound textures in a countinuous contrapuntal interplay of melodic and rhythmic patterns. 

«Tradition isn't something old,» observes José Pino. «Its's a mental process shared by peoples in a particular time and place. Presenting the Andarele to music students in Switzerland, I want to give them a perspective upon another culture. Understanding how another group of people conceives something will broaden their horizon, enhancing their problem-solving skills and unleashing their creativity.»

bottom of page