Aztec (Mexico)

The term “Aztec” has a number of different definitions, but in general use it refers to the Nahautl-speaking people who politically and culturally dominated much of the land now known as Mexico from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Aztec drummers often accompanied bold dances with a wide variety of percussion instruments, such as the deep, resounding huehuetl (pronounced weh-weht), the ayotl, a tortoise-shell drum, the Avacahtli, two hollowed gourds filled with beads, and the chicahuaztli, a long rainstick rattle. Another important Aztec percussion instrument was the teponaztli, a hollowed, often intricately decorated wooden cylinder placed horizontally and played with resin-tipped wooden mallets called “olmaitl” or “rubber hands.”

While Aztec rhythms can be transcribed using contemporary time signature notation, historical research indicates that the society’s drummers built their percussion lines by vocalizing them as syllables. Phil Tulga teaches us the drum syllables, which are “To” “Ko” “Ti” and “Ki.”

COUNTRY: Mexico
KEY INSTRUMENTS: Avacahtli, Ayotl, Chicahuaztli, Huehuetl, Teponaztli
SONG ON AATW: LATIN AMERICA CD: Mayan Peace Song

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