General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Apr 2021/4 Wind
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Animated graphic of Maya musicians The Boys In The Band

RESOURCE: ‘The Boys In The Bonampak Band’

In her classic article The Boys In The Bonampak Band, Professor Mary Miller (on our Panel of Experts) describes, in what she calls ‘the finest pictorial record of Pre-Columbian music’ the way the leading group of five gourd-rattle players, followed by a drum-player, are shown so skilfully that they are ‘almost showing a frame-by-frame cinematic record of how such rattles are shaken’. They feature in a procession scene that is part of the world-famous Maya murals at Bonampak. (Compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Gourd-rattle players lead a (9-piece) Maya band - detail from the Bonampak murals, Room 1 (painting by Antonio Tejeda)
Gourd-rattle players lead a (9-piece) Maya band - detail from the Bonampak murals, Room 1 (painting by Antonio Tejeda) (Click on image to enlarge)

After the drummer come three turtle-shell drum players. Miller writes: ‘These nine musicians wear similar costumes, variations on a single theme... It is as if band members had been told to wear dark trousers and white shirts. No two figures wear identical costumes... but together they form a group. The basic outfit includes a hide skirt, painted with designs that resemble those of polychrome vases, and a rolled hipcloth, draped like a sausage around the waist. Each of these musicians also wears a stiff, white headdress, perhaps made of woven palm fibre or white straw. Such a construction suggests a Pre-Columbian Panama Hat.’

We have animated the scene ourselves - it’s our attempt to bring to life, however simplistically, Professor Miller’s intended message.

‘The Boys in the Bonampak Band’ by Mary Miller, in Maya Iconography (Eds. Elizabeth P. Benson and Gillett G. Griffin), Princeton University Press, 1988.
Image: scanned from Ancient Maya Paintings of Bonampak, Mexico, Supplementary Publication no. 46, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1955.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Mar 23rd 2019

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