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BEST BET

July 14, 1991|EDMUND NEWTON

By now, movie-makers have long since discovered the haunting lyricism of the Andean quena, or flute, or the breathy sound of the Pan pipes. New Wave musical groups have adopted Andean instruments as their own, and "El Condor Pasa," the unforgettable Quechua ballad recorded in the 1960s by Simon and Garfunkel, is making an extended appearance on your local elevator.

But the real stuff is often hard to find. Yatiri, a quartet of musicians who have been playing Andean music in the Los Angeles area for the past six years, is one of a handful of groups dedicated to preserving and disseminating Andean culture.

In the language of the Indians of the Peruvian and Bolivian highlands, yatiri means folk healer and keeper of legends. "The yatiri preserves stories and hands them down to other people," says Los Angeles-born guitarist Martin Espino. "In the same way, we try to preserve the music."

The four--two Angelenos, a Bolivian and a Peruvian--play such exotic instruments as the charango (a small guitar), the bombo (a deep-sounding drum) and the zamponas (Pan pipes of various sizes). A few years ago, Los Angeles Herald Examiner critic Sasha Anawalt wrote of a Yatiri performance "that ripped one's heart out."

The musicians are more amused than annoyed by the uses the American entertainment industry has found for their instruments, from a ghostly leitmotif played when Viet Cong guerrillas appear in a certain war movie to the obtuse, meditative music often played on The Wave, radio station KTWV.

But they object to having their music shoved into a category of meditative music. "Most of the music we play is dance or party music," Espino says.

The four--Bolivian Mario Torrico, Peruvian Luis Rodriguez and Angelenos Gregory Torrico and Espino--perform in a free concert today at 6 p.m. in the Alhambra Park Band Shell, near Palm Avenue and Cedar Street.

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