Jaina drummerJaina drummerAncient Maya (Jaina, Mexico), n.d.
Mayavase K7549
© Justin Kerr
Maya pipe fluteMaya pipe fluteAncient Maya (Jaina, Mexico), n.d.
Mayavase K6095a
© Justin Kerr
Jaina drummerMaya pipe flute
Female figural whistleFemale figural whistleAncient Maya (Jaina, Mexico), A.D. 500-900
Clay, paint
Courtesy, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution 243929.000
Codex: Music of Ancient MexicoCodex: Music of Ancient MexicoArtist: Xavier Quijas Yxayotl
Original Release Date: June 16, 1997
Courtesy of the artist
Female figural whistleCodex: Music of Ancient Mexico

Music was a significant part of the Maya culture for ceremony and celebratory occasions. Murals at the site of Bonampak illustrate individuals playing instruments. The figure on the top left is drumming and singing. It seems the creator developed a technique incorporating both movement and musical qualities. One can almost hear the beating of the drum and song. His right k’ab (hand) emphasizes realistic movements with the drum. Some of these figures not only depict music in Maya culture, as seen in the second and third image, they also often serve as instruments.

The music below exemplifies the types of ancient Mayan instruments used for various events or ceremonies. The song relates to important aspects of Mayan ideology. The artist, Xavier Quijas Yxayotl, is indigenous to Mexico and strives to preserve the traditional music of Meso-America.

Cuando el ritual comienza el alma se despierta, porque escucha los sonidos y la música ancestral. Los sagrados instrumentos, los tambores, sonajas, las flautas de barro por donde la madre tierra canta. Por las danzas y cantos por donde se expresa nuestro espíritu, y porque sentimos la resposabilidad en el corazón de continuar con la tradición que nos dejaron nuestros antepasados en los sagrados codices.

Nightingale (Music for the Moon and Stars)
by Xavier Quijas Yxayotl

As the ritual starts and we hear the ancestral sounds, the soul awakens, we hear the drums, rattles, and the clay flutes. This music from where our soul expresses itself enables us to feel the responsibility to continue with the tradition left by our ancestors in the Codex.

—Xavier Quijas Yxayotl

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