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The marimba as a cultural force in rural Guatemala

Maya Achi Marimba Music in Guatemala

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Includes CD

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.

"As new material garnered from original field research, Maya Achi Marimba Music in Guatemala is a significant contribution to studies of folk music in any language, especially in English, on neglected Central America. The marimba is officially declared—and in fact is—the closest thing to a national instrument in Guatemala. This in-depth study on one of that nation's marimba musical cultures combines historical background with intelligent analysis and perceptive interpretation of contemporary practice to advance our understanding of a major musical tradition in Latin America. Navarrete Pellicer brings out the voices of the members of the community in this book rich in detail and sensitive in its description of personalities and human relations."
T. M. Scruggs, University of Iowa

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 tradition—the confluence of African musical influences, Spanish colonial power, and Indian ethnic assimilation—as 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.

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Excerpt

Read Chapter 1 (pdf).

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Reviews

"[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 [1982]). This book is invaluable for any scholar interested in indigenous musical practice, no matter where in the world."
—The World of Music

"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."
The Journal of Latin American Studies

"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."
Ethnomusicology

"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."
Reviews in Anthropology

"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."
—The Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

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Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. A History of the Achi People of Rabinal
2. The Belief in the Dead
3. Concepts and Classifications of Music
4. The Marimba and the Son
5. Good and Evil: Music, Alcohol, and Women
6. Musical Occasions
7. Cognition, Values, and the Aesthetics of Music
8. The Economy of the Son and the Pieza
9. Music within Social Interaction
10. Conclusion: "Who Am I to Know Better Than the Ancestors?"
Contents of Compact Disc
Appendix 1: Orthography
Appendix 2: Cofradías
Appendix 3: Musical Ensembles, Repertoires, and Occasions
Appendix 4: Synopses of Dance-Dramas
Notes
Glossary
Discography
References
Index

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About the Author(s)

Sergio Navarrete Pellicer is Professor and Researcher at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social (CIESAS) in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Subject Categories

Latin American/Caribbean Studies
Music and Dance
Anthropology


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.

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