The marimba as a cultural force in rural Guatemala
Maya Achi Marimba Music in Guatemala
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Sergio Navarrete Pellicer
Listen to a clip from Amanecido son, Marimba La Reina Rabinalense. Esteban Uanche (treble); Celestino Cajbón (center); Mencho Uanche (bass). Recorded in Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, 1995.
For the Achi, one of the several Mayan ethnic groups indigenous to Guatemala, the music of the marimba serves not only as a form of entertainment but also as a form of communication, a vehicle for memory, and an articulation of cultural identity. Sergio Navarrete Pellicer examines the marimba traditionthe confluence of African musical influences, Spanish colonial power, and Indian ethnic assimilationas a driving force in the dynamics of cultural continuity and change in Rabinal, the heart of Achi culture and society. By examining the performance and consumption of marimba music as essential parts of a system of social interaction, religious practice, and ethnic identification, Navarrete Pellicer reveals how the strains of the marimba resonate with the spiritual yearnings and cultural negotiations of the Achi as they try to come to terms with the violence and economic hardship wrought by their colonial past.
"[A] greatly needed in-depth study of a vital Central American musical tradition as well as a highly welcome contribution to music anthropology in general...a richly contextualized ethnography of Achi music making in which the author vividly brings to life a great depth of indigenous information in a thoroughly enjoyable and accessible manner…Maya Achi Marimba Music in Guatemala is a sensitive and engaging account that goes much beyond marimba practice. It has its rightful place next to the landmark works of musical anthropologists such as Anthony Seeger (1987) and Steven Feld (1990 ). This book is invaluable for any scholar interested in indigenous musical practice, no matter where in the world."
"Studies examining traditions of Central America are rare, and so as part of the series, Studies in Latin American and Caribbean Music, which aims to present interdisciplinary studies in traditional and contemporary musics, this work is a very welcome addition....For anyone studying Guatemalan society, ritual and beliefs and the role of music-making, musicians and musical behaviour [sic] in shaping and interacting with cultural and religious conditions than this book comes highly recommended."
"An in-depth study of marimba music…Pellicer’s book demonstrates the important role musical practice plays in maintaining social cohesion and identity among Central American Indian communities. The author’s approach is grounded in anthropological fieldwork as well as historical and social analysis….this [is] meticulous anthropological work."
"Those seeking a sensitive examination of music's meaning need look no farther than Sergio Navarrete Pellicer's book...[His] analysis clarifies the conflicting interpretations in this literature and addresses persistent misconceptions and arguments regarding the provenance of the [marimba]...[T]he reader will be greatly aided by the useful appendices that detail orthography and catalog the cofradias, the musical ensembles, the repertories, and the occasions marked by marimba music."
"Navarette Pellicer elucidates the inner workings and ritual manifestations of the Achi cosmovision and its accompanying musical components largely with an aim to underlining 'the ways that musicians and audiences appropriate cultural changes and construct a view about their cultural practices that corresponds with previous worldviews.' (212). In order to do so, he draws our attention to some of the broader Guatemalan social and political unfoldings that have, since colonial times, severely impacted Achi life and the marimba tradition."
In the series
Studies in Latin American and Caribbean Music, edited by Peter Manuel.
Studies in Latin American and Caribbean Music, edited by Peter Manuel, aims to present interdisciplinary studies in the traditional and contemporary musics of Latin America and the Caribbean.