Welcome to Min-On’s Music Journey! Today, the Min-On Concert Association and the Embassy of the Republic of Guatemala in Japan welcome you to Guatemala, located in the northern part of Central America.
|Travel guide for Guatemala:
・Explore the capital of Guatemala City
・Join the most beautiful cultural expression in the world, Semana Santa!
・Experience the culture of Mayan civilization
Situated between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala is blessed with beautiful oceans and lush nature, and is known for its mild and comfortable climate throughout the year. The Mayan civilization flourished in Guatemala for about 2,500 years from around 1000 CBE, and the culture of that time period can still be seen in the lives of Guatemalan people today.
Let’s begin our journey with a performance of the marimba, the national instrument of Guatemala. Please enjoy “Ave Lira” performed by the Alfonso Bautista Marimba Ensemble from the 2008 Min-On Concert “Viva! Centro America.” Enjoy the staggering technique shown using the high notes of the Marimba called piccolo.
Guatemala City, the capital city where it’s always spring
Guatemala City, located on an inland plateau, has one of the mildest climates in the country and is known as the “land of an everlasting spring.” Guatemala City is one of the largest cities in Central America, with an estimated three million residents, and it’s the political and economic center of Guatemala.
The city has many valuable and noteworthy sites such as the National Palace of Culture, considered a masterpiece of Guatemalan architecture that was once used as the presidential palace, and the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography, where many valuable Mayan artifacts are on display. The city is also home to amusement and commercial facilities such as La Aurora Zoo, one of the largest zoo in Latin America, Mundo Petapa, an amusement park which opened in 1976, and the Oakland Mall, home to many high-brand stores and restaurants.
La Aurora Zoo (left) and Mundo Petapa (right)
The National Palace of Culture (left) and The Oakland Mall (right)
Antigua, an ancient city with colorful streets
Antigua is an ancient city, and its entirety is registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site. The city still retains strong vestiges of its days as a prosperous capital of a Spanish colony, and its cobblestone streets, colonial-style buildings and vibrant cityscape are picturesque no matter where you take a snapshot.
Semana Santa (Holy Week), which precedes Easter, is very popular in Antigua and it attracts many international visitors. Similar events are widely celebrated in countries of Spanish culture, but Antigua’s Semana Santa has been called the most beautiful in the world.
The most eye-catching feature are the beautiful carpets called alfombras that cover the paths that portable shrines carrying statues of Christ and Mary travel upon. Citizens compete to make these carpets, which are made of materials including fruit, wood chips and flowers, filling the streets with colorful and diverse designs.
Next, please see the song “Tajumulco” below from the Min-On performance “Viva! Centro America,” as performed by the Alfonso Bautista Marimba Ensemble.
Mayan civilization and culture
Mayan civilization is characterized by the fact that it was not influenced by the old continent, and built its civilization using only stone tools. As a result, Mayan civilization evolved independently in areas including education, construction and agriculture, including a number of incredible aspects starkly different from any other civilizations.
On our journey, let’s visit some famous spots where you can experience fascinating Mayan civilization first hand.
Lake Atitlan and surrounding villages
More than 20 Mayan villages are clustered around Lake Atitlan, a huge caldera lake located about three hours by bus from Antigua. Each village has unique characteristics, but one common cultural item with great significance is the huipil, a piece of traditional Guatemalan clothing.
In Mayan civilization, there were five different colors corresponding to the five directions of: east, west, south, north and center. Colorful Guatemalan textiles are sometimes referred to as the Guatemalan rainbow. The colors and designs of huipil also have diverse characteristics depending on the village, with diverse styles including patterns made with more muted colors, patterns that depict birds and flowers, and geometric patterns.
Tikal National Park
Tikal National Park includes ruins from Mayan civilization, including the Tikal Ruins and the Mayan Biosphere Reserve, and is registered as a World Heritage Site. Considered the largest city ruins of Mayan civilization, with more than 3,000 structures and diverse ecosystems, Tikal National Park is of great cultural value to the world.
Guatemalan musical culture
The marimba, introduced through a performance at the beginning of our journey, is an important instrument in Guatemala that is almost ubiquitously played at festivals, celebrations and other events. It is also played in the streets, and its lively tones can be heard throughout the country.
The marimba doble (two-tier marimba), invented in Guatemala, has since been adopted as the official marimba here, and is used in classical music and other music scenes around the world. While the most common global practice is for one person to play a single marimba, in Guatemala, the traditional style is for several people to play together.
For example, Guatemala’s largest marimba has a range of 11 octaves, more than that of a piano, and can be played by up to seven players.
|Music Journey Editorial Team Choice Artist: Ricardo Arjona
Our featured artist today is Ricardo Arjona, a singer-songwriter from Guatemala. He is considered one of the most successful artists in Latin America, with numerous awards to his credit, including Grammy Awards and Billboard Latin Music Awards. We’ve featured his song “Fuiste tú” below, a collaboration with artist Gaby Moreno, also from Guatemala. Please enjoy the beautiful video below, shot in Guatemala.
Musicians recommended by the Embassy of the Republic of Guatemala in Japan
In closing, we would like to introduce musicians recommended by the Embassy of the Republic of Guatemala in Japan.
- BASTABA UNA MIRADA ―STEPHANIE ZELAYA
- FRONTERAS ―GABY MORENO
- ¿DE QUE SIRVE QUERER? ― MALACATES TREBOL SHOP
What did you think of your music journey to Guatemala? There are still many more places to go! Please look forward to our next destination.
(Produced in collaboration with the Embassy of the Republic of Guatemala in Japan, who also provided photos.)
Min-On Concert Association
－Music Binds Our Hearts－