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Tunkul playing Aztec music

Aztec Music news in the UK...

While the Tudors strummed, the Aztecs beat, blew and “sang with their feet ...” (Latest news at bottom of page...!) (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Chris García gives a virtuoso solo performance on pre-Hispanic musical instruments...

Tunkul at ‘Rhythms of Latin America’ in London
Tunkul at ‘Rhythms of Latin America’ in London (Click on image to enlarge)

On October 9th. 2004 a new group hit London with Aztec music, in the highly successful ‘Rhythms of Latin America’ festival at the Instituto Cervantes, organised by Discovering Latin America in aid of Peace Brigades International.
Tunkul not only interpret Aztec music using authentic copies of exotic wind and percussion instruments (from marine conch shell trumpets and giant ocarinas to 5-foot long serpent rainsticks and beautifully carved two-tongued tongue drums), they also support the music itself with fascinating background images and anecdotes based on their research from pre-Hispanic codices. It’s a feast for the eyes as well as for the ears ...!

Lecture demonstration of Aztec Music by Ian Mursell
Lecture demonstration of Aztec Music by Ian Mursell

At the same festival, Ian, one of the Tunkul members, gave a lecture/demonstration of Aztec musical instruments to a packed audience.
Both Tunkul and Ian offer Aztec music workshops, lectures and performances in schools, colleges, universities, museums, galleries, arts centres and beyond.
Tunkul gave a lunchtime concert at the University of Essex on Thursday October 20th. 2005. Mexicolore and Tunkul took part in the October 2006 Brighton Early Music Festival. Follow the link below for full details

Tunkul play for AI
Tunkul play for AI (Click on image to enlarge)

Miranda, Will, Ian and Victor tune up for their gig at the Amnesty International freedom festival benefit in Kingston (15/10/05).

Replica Aztec drums made by Jaime Flores
Replica Aztec drums made by Jaime Flores (Click on image to enlarge)

Beautiful hand carved replica ‘huehuetl’ and ‘teponaztli’ drums made by Jaime Flores C. from Malinalco, exhibited as part of a major crafts festival (Festival del Gran Premio) at FONART, Mexico City, autumn 2005. The huehuetl is a replica of the famous metre-high Aztec instrument from Malinalco (now in the Toluca city museum) that came to London in 2002-3 for the Aztecs exhibition.

Amoxpoani at the Templo Mayor Museum
Amoxpoani at the Templo Mayor Museum (Click on image to enlarge)

We have been privileged as a team to meet - and see perform - the teaching team Amoxpoani (‘We Who Read The Books’), who bring to life pre-Hispanic music, poetry and ritual in schools and museums in Mexico City. The team is based at the Templo Mayor, is led by teacher Raúl Guerrero Casarrubias, and is composed (apart from Raúl) entirely of volunteers, including one blind student and one 11-year-old boy and his Náhuatl-speaking mother.

Amoxpoani at the Templo Mayor Museum
Amoxpoani at the Templo Mayor Museum (Click on image to enlarge)

Young Sergio told us that he still gets ribbed at school from time to time for taking part in an ‘Aztec’ theatre-in-education group - but he’s determined and proud to carry on...

11-year-old Sergio of Amoxpoani
11-year-old Sergio of Amoxpoani (Click on image to enlarge)

Ian gave a ‘paper’ on ‘Drumming up maximum support: music and spectacle in the ceremonial centre of Tenochtitlan’ as part of the Music and the City in Latin America session at the Society for Latin American Studies annual conference at Newcastle University on April 14th. 2007. (He admits to feeling more at home, though, working in school environments!)

Pupils attempting to play conch trumpets in a Mexicolore workshop
Pupils attempting to play conch trumpets in a Mexicolore workshop (Click on image to enlarge)

On Friday May 18th 2007 Ian presented ‘Drumming up maximum support: gods, music and ritual in ancient Mexico: an interactive and illustrated lecture-demonstration on the musical instruments played by the Aztecs’. The talk was supported by slides, copies of a wide range of wind and percussion instruments, and evidence for their existence from facsimiles of pre-Hispanic screenfold ritual books. Held at Bolivar Hall, London, under the auspices of ILAMS (Iberian and Latin American Music Society), the event was attended by a large and enthusiastic audience - who ended up taking part with percussion instruments and a chant in Náhuatl...

Ian at the SLAS Conference, Newcastle University, April 2007
Ian at the SLAS Conference, Newcastle University, April 2007 (Click on image to enlarge)

Gerald Crowson, co-founder of ILAMS, wrote after the event: ‘May I say a big thank you for the most excellent presentation you did for us on Friday evening, we got so many new insights into Aztec life, music and culture’. And Ray Picot, ILAMS Secretary, wrote: ‘There was a very positive atmosphere and I learned alot. I’m reading a history of the colonisation of the Americas, north and south, and one thing that these things don’t cover are the people. You really brought the Aztec world and its music to light. I shall have no hesitation in recommending you in the future’. Learn more of ILAMS work by following the link below.

Ian’s lecture-demonstration for ILAMS at Bolivar Hall, London, 2007 - photos by Paul Farren
Ian’s lecture-demonstration for ILAMS at Bolivar Hall, London, 2007 - photos by Paul Farren (Click on image to enlarge)

On Saturday 14th August 2010 Ian gave an introductory illustrated demonstration of some ‘Aztec’ wind and percussion instruments at ‘Rhythms’ - the music and dance festival organised annually by Discovering Latin America.

In July 2012 Mexicolore was approached by Dave Price, music and sound director for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s co-production (with the Compañía Nacional de Teatro de México) of ‘A Soldier in Every Son: the Rise of the Aztecs’. Follow the link below to read what Dave said of Mexicolore’s website...

In January 2013 Mexicolore ran 3 workshops for families on Aztec Music at the British Museum for their BM Young Friends ‘Awesome Aztecs!’ day.

Read our feature on the Teponaztli

Brighton Early Music Festival 2006

Read about ‘A Soldier in Every Son’

Contact Ian Mursell on 020 7622 9577 for details
Discovering Latin America website
ILAMS website
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