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The Timple is a little guitar with 5 strings and is regarded to be the most representative musical instrument of the folklore in the Canaries.
The information about its origin is incomplete and diverse. Some say that it came from a musician from Lanzarote or that somebody from mainland Spain brought it with him, about 200 years ago. The Majoreros, the original inhabitants of Fuerteventura, didn’t have instruments with strings, as was written in 1604 by a poet, called Viana.
Is the Timple a copy from an existing concept or was it invented? One can find guitars with similar shape and sound in Portugal and the Levant, so the conclusion is imminent that the Timple is an adaptation of some type of small guitar from the Iberian Peninsula. You find similar types of guitar in Latin America, but that is due to immigration from the Canaries. There, the instrument is called “Tiple”.
The Timple has a very narrow resonance box, but the back is extended and rounded. This form cannot be found on the Peninsula, but it is present in Latin America. Thus, one might conclude that the little guitar was imported from the Peninsula, has been adapted in the Canaries to make the Timple as we know it today and then has been distributed to Latin America through the recent migration in the 19th century. According to historical data the rounding of the resonance box has been attributed to a certain Catalan carpenter, called Alpañe, who worked at the end of the 18th century in Las Palmas. But the concept of rounding resonance boxes came from somewhere else. In the middle of the 16th century Fuerteventura and Lanzarote were mostly populated by Moorish people and slaves from the African Coast. With them, some African instruments landed on the archipelago and these might have had a measurable influence on the shape of the existing small Spanish guitar, resulting in the shape the Timple in Fuerteventura has today. In Tenerife for example there is no 5th string and in some other Canary Islands the pitch tones are different.
The Canarian Timple, or the “Camellillo” (little Camel) as it is called sometimes, has found its place between the instruments that are in use today thanks to its specific sound and personality. When you have the opportunity to listen to this instrument being played, please take your time, sit back and enjoy.
Note: some info in this article originates from articles by the local government.
Source: Text Karl Kunze – Lanzarote 37º - April 2008, Canarian Government, Wikipedia.