Music



Jorge Reyes, "Premonition"

The native spirituality I discovered in The Shaman's Cross was ancient. While I won't claim that the indigenous rites I was observing were precise repetitions of customs before Columbus, the ritual intentions and spiritual beings involved echoed many of the practices I had researched from the Aztecs, Maya, Olmec, and other old civilizations from across Mexico. No musician has evoked the mystique of the Pre-Columbian cosmos as did the late Jorge Reyes. I often hear these works in my mind when I visit majestic archaeological sites such as Castillo de Teayo and Tajín from the book.
 


Trío Guardianes de la Huasteca, "La Petenera"

The defining musical tradition in the Huasteca, Huapango is typically played with a string trio. From left to right in this video are the violin, jarana, and guitar, which are strummed with rapid, vibrant tempo. The sharp climbs in the singer's pitch have been traced to African cultural influence: slave trade peaked in Veracruz during the seventeenth century, when African peoples in Veracruz shared many traditions with their native neighbors.
 


Banda de Viento, "Serenata Huasteca"

Among my many visits to the Huasteca, I found brass "banda" troops commonly in urban settings, especially the cabecera county seats such as Tlamachiliz and Dãndéhé. Their lively tunes animated city festivals and dance parties. I have special memories of their glowing tunes warming me up during the chilly pre-winter jaunts to Tlamachiliz.
 


The Voladores of Papantla

With steadfast flute and crisp tabor, the Totonac "Voladores" give their spiral descent a festive song. The Voladores spin from lowering ropes as they spread ever outward to the four directions, a reenactment of a mythical transformation into birds to bring the rains from faraway skies. I watched the Volador rites at the entrance to Tajín, one of the largest and most important archaeological sites in not just Veracruz but even all of Mexico.
 


Costa Brava de Veracruz, "Mi Novia Me Quiere"

Inspired by the Afro-Latin rhythms of Colombia's Cumbia sound, "Tropical Music" is a popular mainstay in Veracruz and indeed across Latin America. Quick synthesizers, deep percussions, and romantic themes keep the songs apace. During the season of The Shaman's Cross, the county of Tlamachiliz brought a tropical band to bring in the New Year's Day celebration for 2005, which got everyone at the city hall plaza dancing!
 


Tlen Huicani, "La Bamba"

The fast strumming and delicate plucking of Fandango is iconic to the state of Veracruz, and most especially from the hot lands of its southern Gulf Coast. As in this glorious rendition of "La Bamba," the harp is one of Fandango's defining sounds as it evokes images of warm breeze and palm trees along the nighttime.
 


Costumbre Music of Tenango de Doria, Hidalgo

Music is essential to indigenous worship in the Huasteca region, not only to animate the ritual space but in fact also to charge the actions upon it. Humans and spirits alike participate in the sacred dances prompted through these traditional tunes. As the dance quickens the spiritual beings addressed in these rituals, they thus build greater force to act in the world. I observed this principle best when attendees took ceremonial bundles meant to represent the male and female maize spirits and held them to sway with the beat. Active maize would yield abundant maize.
 


Rammstein, "Engel"

My visits to the cabecera of Tlamachiliz often led me to its local eateries, which were wont to play music channels from overhead television sets. Watching these channels led me to two insights about Mexico's music television: first, it actually played music videos; and second, it brought a multitude of sounds from bands across the country, in addition to popular music from the United States and Europe. Nowhere was the musical eclecticism more evident than in Mexico City, boasting the nation's most cosmopolitan culture. As I was awaiting a flight to Houston from the Benito Juarez International Airport, I heard industrial rock songs by Marilyn Manson and Rammstein playing from one of the boutiques in the terminal.
 


Jorge Reyes, "Flight of the Bird Children"

And just as I concluded the book's journey with a pass by the pyramids of Teotihuacan, I complete this soundtrack by returning to the sounds of the Pre-Columbian past. One of the late Jorge Reyes' most haunting themes, "Flight of the Bird Children" has long been my Mesoamerican anthem, an echo of the hidden power unfurled from the forested temples and colossal pyramids of Mexico's deep past. Living in Veracruz' native worlds brought me closer to that ancient, living spirit, now issuing forth for a new age.
 

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