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Canary Islands


 

Geography & Topography

Capital: Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Area:  The Canary Islands exist of 7 big islands (Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro and 6 smaller islands (Graciosa, Alegranza, Montaña Clara, Isla de Lobos, Roque del Este en Roque del Oeste).

Language: Spanish (Castellano)

Religion: Roman Catholic

Currency: Euro

History

The Canary Islands is a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, 100 km west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The Canaries are a Spanish autonomous community and an outermost region of the European Union.

The originally volcanic islands were formed by the Canary hotspot. The Canary Islands is the only place in Spain where volcanic eruptions have been recorded during the Modern Era, with some volcanoes still active.

Due to the islands geographical location the islands’ climate is subtropical. The surprising landscape, with high mountains covered by snow very close to the beaches, is an additional attraction. Water temperature varies from 22º C in summer to 19º C in winter.

In La Palma, Tenerife and Gran Canaria you may find tropical rains from time to time, while Fuerteventura and Lanzarote are very dry and guarantee sunshine almost without interruption.

Performing Arts

Music

The most recognisable instruments in traditional Canarian music are:

The Timple

The Timple: The timple is a traditional Spanish plucked string instrument of the Canary Islands.

In La Palma island and in the north of the island of Tenerife, many timple players omit the fifth (D) string, in order to play the timple as a four-string ukulele, though this is considered less traditional by players and advocates of the five-string version. The players of the four-string style, in return, say that they are simply playing the timple in the old-fashioned way from before the time when a fifth string was introduced in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.

 

Bandurria

Bandurria: The bandurria is a plectrum chordophone from Spain, similar to the cittern and the mandolin, primarily used in Spanish folk music. It bears a close resemblance to the Portuguese guitarra.

Prior to the 18th century, the bandurria had with a round back, similar or related to the mandore. It had become a flat-backed instrument by the 18th century, with five double courses of strings, tuned in fourths. The original bandurrias of the Medieval period had three strings. During the Renaissance they gained a fourth string. During the Baroque period the bandurria had 10 strings (5 pairs). The modern bandurria has 12 strings (6 pairs). The strings are tuned in unison pairs, going up in fourths from the low G#. The lowest four strings are a major-third above those of a standard guitar and the highest two strings are a fourth above a standard guitar, ie G♯, c♯, f♯, b, e and a

 

Chacaras

Chácaras: Chácaras are a type of castanets from the Canary Islands. They are an idiophonic and chattering instrument, with an interior cavity.

Chácaras are used in the traditional music of the islands of El Hierro and La Gomera, the latter being very big, bigger than the hands of the player. They are often accompanied by tambor drums and chanting, and by dancers performing the baile de tambor (drum dance).

When playing, a pair of chácaras is held in each hand, secured by the cord, and the hands are shaken. The macho (male) chácara, with a deeper sound, held in one hand, sets the rhythm, and the hembra (female) chácara, in the other hand, is the one that chimes.

In the other islands there are similar smaller instruments, but they are called castañuelas.

Some interesting facts:

  • The northernmost island is La Palma and is referred to as ‘la Isla Bonita’, owing to its immense natural beauty.
  • Many historical records claim that the Portuguese had discovered the Canaries way back in 1336. However, there is very little or no evidence to support the statement.
  • Canary Islands is the eighth most populous of Spain’s autonomous communities.
  • Canary Islands boast of a rich cultural heritage and music.
  • Immigrants from Spain, Portugal and Italy make up majority of the population of Canary Islands.
  • Four of Spain’s thirteen national parks are located in the Canary Islands.
  • The economy of Canary Islands is primarily based on tourism.
  • The most important festival of Canary Islands is the carnival held in February

Canarian Community in Australia:

More information on the Canarian community: