The Sikus family ranges in sizes from the tiny Chuli to the six-foot long Toyos. TheSikus is the oldest of the South American indigenous flutes. It is believed that as early as 5000 years ago this instrument was used in its pentatonic version. It was not until the arrival of the Europeans that theSikus (Zampoñas) acquired their tuning in G. Some ethnomusicologists believe that the name of this family of instruments stem from a mispronunciation by the Indians of the word symphony (sinfonía in Spanish). Other members of the family, of different sizes and tuning arrangements are called Maltas, Bastos, Semitoyos, Sikus, Antaras, Rondadores (from Ecuador), and Payas. The names always varying according to their regions of provenance. In the Andean mountains you can often see pairs of Zampoñeros playing alternate notes in rapid succession resulting in a kind of “stereo” effect. Traditionally, two individuals divide the Zampoñas into two separate rows of pipes so that while one of the players is “breathing” the other player is playing and vice versa. A great degree of synchronization is require of the players to successfully accomplish this activity..
The Indians probably devised the instrument this way because since they live in the high plateaus of the Andes well over 12,000 feet of altitude and the air is so thin there, they could rapidly hyperventilate by playing the instrument, and also because every aspect of their existence is marked by a communal attitude towards life.