The Garland Handbook of Latin American Music

The Garland Handbook
of Latin American Music
Part Three: Nations and Musical
Traditions, Middle Latin America,
Cultural Heritage
• Mayan musical life documented by both Maya and Spanish
Ancient Mayan texts
• Los Anales de los Cakchiqueles, and the Popol Vuh
• Music and certain instruments linked with sacred
Significant in ritual life, and thought to contain power
• As with other indigenous groups in Lat/Am
• Ancient Mayan beliefs inform contemporary cultural traditions
Though musical styles increasingly influenced by foreign musical
• Church primary influence on music and music making during
Colonial period (as throughout Latin America)
Introduced European instruments, genres, and performance styles
Cultural Heritage
• Garífuna
Descendants of African slaves as well as of Arawak and Carib
inhabitants of St. Vincent (a Caribbean island)
Musical genres and contexts reflect varying degrees of
• Various genres performed on traditional Garífuna
instruments of African derivation (i.e., chumba, jungujugu,
parranda, etc.)
• African and Christian derived sacred genres
• Secular work songs
• Various popular Atlantic coastal Caribbean styles
Mayan Music and Beliefs
Mayan instruments
Classified as male or female
• Reflect Mayan cosmology
Female (k’ojom)
• Struck or plucked instruments (idiophones, membranophones, and
• Associated with the surface of the earth (or geographic plane)
• Include: rattles, the tun (slit-log drum), rasps, the matraca (a wooden
ratchet), the marimba, tambor and tamborón (cylindrical double headed
drums); the violin, guitar, and bandolín (a mandolin like instrument)
Male (xul)
• blown instruments (aerophones)
• associated with cosmic axis connecting world of spirits above and below
surface of the earth
• Include: xul (a duct flute); chirimia (a double-reed instrument); conch
Contemporary Mayan music and contexts
Reflect both Mayan and Christian beliefs and practices
• Contexts include: saint day celebration, solstice, agricultural, and life-cycle
Contemporary Guatemalan Music
The Marimba
Origins and development reflect encounter between
African, Indigenous, and European cultural traditions
• Most likely of African origin
• Significant in both ladino and Mayan social and religious
Recognized as national instrument 1821
• Variation in instrument construction, ensemble
instrumentation, and performance styles indicative of
acculturative processes
Typical genres
• Traditional sones (i.e., the son guatemalteco)
• Light classics, and other popular music
Music and Identity
The marimba as marker of national identity
As noted throughout the chapter, the marimba takes a significant
place among contemporary Guatemalan instruments and
musical traditions
Consider the following questions
• How does the origin and development of the marimba reflect the
acculturative processes observed throughout Latin America?
• What other instruments and/or genres discussed thus far similarly
serve as a marker of regional and/or national identity?
• How might the development and use of the marimba by different
ethnic groups inform our understanding of 1) the nature of ethnic,
regional, and national identity, and 2) the significance and meaning
of certain material cultural items like musical instruments?