Jhonny Sarmiento Alba owns the Artesanias Alba national instrument shop.
Jhonny comes from Aiquile, a lovely colonial town in the high valley of the Department of Cochabamba where the entire population is dedicated to making hand crafted charangos.
Like other residents of Aiquile, this entrepreneur learned to make charangos informally, but he perfected his technique at visits to international expos: "at a fair in Peru I learned to make a perfect scale. We offer the same quality in finish, materials and acoustics as Achá, but at half the price.
They use machinery, we work by hand, and the results are the same... in my family we stand out for making the best charangos, and we have won several 'Gold Charangos.' I am recognized for introducing new techniques and for having invented the carved armadillo. The forestry department forbids the use of this endangered animal, so I invented a way to carve that imitates the shell of the armadillo and to draw out the same sound as the Oruro armadillo... We work with mahogany, naranjillo. Each one sounds different. We get the wood in Santa Cruz..."
Classes are also offered at Alba: "a charango buyer at our shop can take classes for only 30 Bs. per hour. If he purchases a charango anywhere else, the classes are 50 Bs. per hour."
Mario is the craftsman who has worked the longest at the shop. Besides being a luthier, he is a great musician which helps maintain impeccable quality control.
Watch the video we have here where Mario gives us a step-by-step explanation of how this instrument is made.