The Maya civilization, dominant for over a thousand years–most so from the years 200 to 900 A.D.–in the lands we now know as Mexcio and Guatemala, was full and rich and certainly included volumes of Many music, but since there was no recording mechanism at the time, and because the Maya didn’t use musical notation, almost all of it has been lost. Spanish conquerors from the 16th century did note some Mayan music and learned enough about lingering Mayan rituals that ethnomusicoligists and anthropologists are confident that music was central to Mayan ceremonies and life events. The Maya favored flutes and drums and built their instruments from the nature around them–they used conch shells for trumpets and turtle shells as drums. The Mayan song Xtoles is believed to be one of the world’s oldest continually sung melodies. Watch a performance by Mexico’s Coro Universitario Estudiantil.
COUNTRY: Guatemala, Mexico
KEY INSTRUMENTS: Conches and other natural trumpets, Flutes, Maracas, Tortoisehell drums, Whistles
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