by Muriel Simonson

Kathy and Leo Lara presented an interesting and enjoyable evening  of diverse music and stories of Latin American culture on September 27, 2017 at the Cook Library, sponsored by the Arrowhed Library System.

Kathy, who  was originally from Ely, Minnesota, went to Ecuador to teach and learn more of the music and culture of the area. She is a music, Spanish and elementary education teacher.  Leo is an Afro Ecuadorian, born and raised in Africa.  In Kathy’s study of the Latin folk music, she and Leo met and married, and they have five children.  They have been active as performers and educators within the Midwest since 1979.

They brought a number of interesting instruments, which were made with items of nature. Among them were the charang, which is made from an armadillo shell which creates a happy sound,  pan flutes made from bamboo, shu shus made from hoofs of llamas and other small animals, drums and many more instruments.  When someone hurts themselves they gather around singing repetitive sounds and words, using the music as a healer. They demonstrated and explained the various instruments as well as singing and taught us a little of their culture.

The Lara’s presented an interactive evening with everyone in attendance having the opportunity to sing along, as well as play an instrument, which made a lovely orchestra.

This enjoyable  program was funded in part or in whole with money from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. 


Leo & Kathy Lara



Audience Participation


Instruments made from nature


Instruments & other items


More instruments including turtle shell and shu shu


Flutes, shu shus, stringed instrument from armadillo shell, other articles.


Flutes, pan flutes, shu shus