What does Mayan prehispanic music sound like? The pre-Hispanic and ethnic music group Kan Bacab are part of the treasures that we have had the privilege of crossing our path, with them we will enter this musical window.

The blog has taken us along beautiful paths since we started this adventure, and without a doubt the best thing has been to meet people who enrich us, with whom we have established a relationship, from travelers, teachers, archaeologists, local guides, anthropologists, peasants, artisans, Musicians, historians, adventurers, conservationists, fellow nature guides:

People of the Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas who Thanks to coexistence, writings, arts, presentations and news, we constantly learn about the Mayan culture, a land we want with all our heart.

Thanks to Kan Bacab we have known and appreciated the pre-Hispanic sounds, an endless window to music and history where you are trapped. We are going to approach them thanks to pre-Hispanic music, to Mayan instruments, even to the master potter who evokes tradition by manufacturing the recreations of ancient Mayan instruments.

Who are Kan Bacab?

Nothing better to introduce themselves, although I take the floor later to talk a little about them.

As you see in the presentation they are 4 members of Kan Bacab, Juan Carrillo, Ricardo Castillo, Raúl Manzanilla and Pedro Hernández. Two of them archaeologists, an anthropologist and a historian. Four friends from college times who 20 have been traveling this wonderful path of dissemination and conservation of pre-Hispanic sounds as a family for years. It is easy to intuit how they added their passions, concerns and knowledge to create KAN BACAB.

WHAT ACTIVITIES DOES KAN BACAB DO? As reported in your contact «They have developed courses and workshops concerning the performance of musical performance, rituality, dance and indigenous theater in different parts of the peninsula». Within the framework of the active participation of the Kan Bacab group, other activities stand out, among which «the musicalization of art and documentary exhibitions, participation in conferences for diverse audiences, radio programs, and the realization of various activities. concerts at the peninsular level through various festivals and workshops on pre-Hispanic music in various communities of Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo ».

The 4 formative profiles of the members as they themselves express “provide a broader vision of artistic expression that encompasses different cultural manifestations of the past and present. This multidisciplinary approach nourishes the creative process that derives in the composition of different musical works that seek to evoke the Mesoamerican sound universe by implementing various musical instruments of ethnic origin ».

The love for pre-Hispanic culture, conservation and dissemination, is his passion and his thread. When their daily work allows them, the Kan Bacab group meets to put their hearts in music. A vocation that they have been developing in schools, exhibition halls and cultural events. In their workshops you can learn about pre-Hispanic music, those documents that have come to us on the subject.

CONTACT KAN BACAB: Facebook: @kanbacab Twitter: @4Bacab Instagram: @kanbacab Email: kanbacabmx@gmail.com

How can we know the sounds of pre-Hispanic music

Obviously there is no recording that we can hear from that time, but there are graphic documents and pieces found that allow us to open the desired window to look into the past.

In these documents we see diverse represented instruments, from seashells or long trumpets, scenes of festivities and celebrations with musicians and other details that allow us to observe.

Mayan prehispanic music
The trumpets are called joom paax
Mesoamerican music
Bonampak mural
Mayan and Mesoamerican pre-Hispanic music, by Kan Bacab 1
It shows a Aztec Huehuetl-like drum, to play without leaving
prehispanic music maya bonampak
Murals Bonampak, fourth 1. Musicians and dancers
Mayan dancers and musicians
Jaguar Dancer and Musician

Kan Bacab "tries to evoke the sound universe of the Mesoamerican Maya through the reproduction of the sounds and the interpretation and uses of the endemic musical instruments of the Mayan area." Let's hear how pre-Hispanic music sounds : )

K'ay Tunkul

What Mayan instruments existed in the ancient world

Thanks to the different iconographies in murals and ceramics, we know that there were "whistles, ocarinas, jingle bells, scrapers, various types of flutes, framing, trumpets, atabales, rattles" as the musician Enrique Anleu Díaz states in his Critical History of the Guatemalan music. Sea shells were modified and painted as instruments, tense animal skin was used on turtle shells to make the drums. There were drums to play statically and others to load, as well as drums made of ceramic, clay or pumpkin.

The different graphic evidences convey to us how important music was in Mayan celebrations, as well as in battles. Instruments were used as an intimidation weapon for the opponent and to embolden their own. The leaders and people of important Mayan families were buried next to musical instruments. It is believed that in Mesoamerican cultures, music is part of spirituality and is a way of communication with deities.

In pre-Hispanic rituals, ceremonies, games, sacrifices, battles and important occasions, music was a primary part of the event. The human being is associated with music. From ancient times to the present day music has formed for the essential of our human nature.

Mayan prehispanic music

For the reproduction of the pre-Hispanic instruments Kan Bacab relies on the work of Emilio Espadas Dzul, a Yucatecan master potter whoever makes whistles, ceramic drums and vessels. Also in Gregorio Cortez, another master craftsman from central Mexico. The aftershocks are exact as studied, and the best moment comes when they make sounds to the new instruments, more with the excitement of knowing what their cultural past sounds like. They have fun as children.

Let's see part of these beautiful replicas in the photos provided by Kan Bacab. These instruments that we see were made by the craftsman Gregorio. We couldn't help buying a couple of them, look what beauty 🙂

Mayan instruments
20 flute degrees. Photo courtesy of Kan Bacab
Mayan music
Double ocarina. Photo courtesy of Kan Bacab
Mayan instruments
Frog scraper. Photo courtesy of Kan Bacab
Mayan artisans
Visiting the master potter Emilio Espadas Dzul
Quetzal Song

To thank from here for all the learning in these lands. What we learned is part of what we try to convey in our routes, where we include visits to artisans to show you their jobs and buy without intermediaries.

The trip is an opportunity to cooperate with the small economy and live experiences close to the locals, so we live.

Good way,

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Sandra Salvadó Training photographer, traveler by vocation and certified tourism guide by the Government of Mexico. We promote natural wonders and contemporary Mayan culture. Great fan of pre-Hispanic history. Author of the blog and co-founder of The Shortest Path Travel, agency that guides you through alternative paths in Mayan lands. Social and sustainable tourism in the Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas.
I am at your disposal for whatever you need. Let's talk.

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