Music of Chiapas

by

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from http://www.othermusic.com and folkways.si.edu:

Modern Mayan: The Indian Music of Chiapas, Mexico (Mississippi LP)

When the dense fog of the Aquarian days of self-discovery lifted, many travelers found themselves in faraway places, perhaps with an unopened yurt kit, much more kelp than needed, or nursing a yearlong ayahuasca hangover. Richard Alderson found himself in Chiapas, Mexico, newly emigrated, with a pair of Electro-Voice mics and an incredible knack for finding amazing indigenous music in the highlands.

Alderson, an engineer for ESP-Disk, was behind the boards for many of the label’s finest sessions. Here we find a newly released version of his virtually unheard Folkways release, Modern Mayan: The Indian Music of Chiapas, Mexico, originally issued in the mid’ 70s.

There’s a gripping lyrical quality to this music that’s incessantly mystifying. Guitar and harp strokes entwine with primitive violin sawing creating this fierce emotional tug. When the locals are in the full band fiesta set-up, lazy trombones sag with wasted horn bleats, all sounding very out and very wonderful. This is absolutely devastating stuff, where occasionally homemade rockets are audible passing from left to right channels, all just part of the festivities.

Listening to modern Mayan music poses several problems.  This music grew out of 16th century European foundations on one hand, and on the other it is unlike any other music anywhere.  The European influence has been working continuously in indigenous life and consciousness, from conquest times up to the present, yet there is a strong presence of the ancient Mayan spirit surfacing in the style and rhythms of this music today.
Thus the tonal modulations in this music are simple and repetitive, and the harmonies are rudimentary.  The
rhythms, however, are complex and unrelated to European models or greatly transformed from them.
The intonation, while based on the diatonic scale and peculiarly close to fixed western pitches, is subtley different
from what any western musician would play.
Finally, the context of this music is completely different from the world as we know it,  necessitating the opening of our ears to another place and time.  However, the rewards are great when the borders are crossed musically into this
land of original American art.
See and listen also here.
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