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Music In Guatemala

The styles of popular music in Guatemala are extremely varied. From the highlands to the cities, you can find just about any type of music styles, including but not limited to traditional folk music, tropical salsa, mariachi bands, hip hop and reggaeton, classical orchestras, meringue bands, opera vocalists and even heavy metal.

Wind and percussion bands are popular in many towns, but the younger people tend to prefer rock and pop music. Cumbia, a style of music from Colombia, is also very popular—but the Cumbia bands here are unique because they are influenced by other traditional styles of music found in Guatemala. On the northern coast, the Garifuna people have their own Caribbean-influenced folk music. You can also find traditional indigenous music played on instruments such as the pan flute and fiddle, as well as complete orchestras.

Of course, you cannot talk about music in Guatemala without mentioning the county's national instrument, the marimba. This xylophone-like instrument made with wood bars and played with mallets is the principal instrument in most Guatemalan folk music. The first documentary evidence of a marimba is from 1680, but it is very probable the instrument is much older. In fact, it is arguable that the marimba was actually introduced by West African slaves as early as 1550. Today, the famous waltz played on the marimba, “Luna de Xelajú,”is regarded as an unofficial national anthem by many Guatemalans.

Insofar as the history of music in Guatemala goes, archaeological evidence suggests the Mayans were making music as early as 600-900A.D. Drums, shakers, whistles, and rattles have been found throughout the Mayan region, as well as figurines and other relics depicting Mayan people playing instruments. Documents and murals have also been found that detail musical instruments and dance in writing.

When the Spaniards came to Guatemala, they corresponded back home about the styles of music found at the time. Guatemalan music became known as villancico, which the Spanish regarded as akin to Christmas carols. Indigenous, European and African influences continues to act upon one another, morphing traditional Guatemalan music into what it is today. This music is still popular in highland Mayan settlements today, usually featuring a lot of percussion and woodwind accompaniments.

Recently, Guatemala has had a surge of rock bands and pop vocalists. The most popular is probably Alux Nahual, a pop-rock group that has recorded a dozen albums and promotes peace in Central America. In 2006, the last rock station planing music on FM radio went off air, which created a surge in the underground music community. The lack of support from the media caused hundred of musicians to begin self-producing records and promoting themselves through venues such as and Today, underground musical projects are extremely diverse, including reggae dub, folk, electronic, instrumental, and metal.

29 Jul 2010

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