Pre-Hispanic percussion instruments: which drums were born in Mexico?

by Ukuleleria Cdmx March 15th, 2018

mexico drums

The drum is an instrument that apparently is in human nature, each tribe, people and nation of the world has in its culture drums, either to make rituals, to invoke the people to war or to make party sounds and enjoy a rhythm that prompts the dance. In this blog we will review the type of pre-Hispanic percussion, the drums that made noise in ancient Mexico.

In pre-Hispanic Mexico there was the conception of several gods and each of these was worshiped with sacrifices, with powers, with offerings and despite this in all rituals (as in most tribes around the world) there was always music, whether with songs or with drums and flutes.

Music for our ancestors was a gift from the gods that in Nahuatl was expressed as tlatzotzonaliztli that comes from the verb tzotzone (sound) and through music the Maya connected with nature and their gods. The god of music was Huehuecóyotl which means "old Coyote" and it is precisely by old that wisdom is attributed to him.

These are the main pre-Hispanic percussion instruments that were mostly used.

1.- Teponaztli

The Teponaztli is a hollow wooden log with H-shaped grooves on the top and on the bottom it had a small rectangular opening to let the sound out freely when hitting with sticks covered with fabric or leather.

2.- Chicahuaztli

The chicahuaztli is a percussion instrument of Aztec origin. It is a staff in the shape of a ray of the sun, in whose upper part there was a bronze sphere that contained seeds or metal pellets and was sounded like a rattle.1 These elements were associated with the deities of water, fertility and life, especially Xipe Tótec and Tláloc.

3.- Ayotl

Ayotl is a turtle coca, it was used as a percussion instrument when struck with a stick or a bone. It was mainly used in the celebration of death and at parties in honor of the rain god Tlaloc.

4.- Omichitzicahuaztli

This instrument is a lake bone with slits that was rubbed with another bone to give a sound similar to that of a güiro but more serious. The bone with slits was made with a human femur, this person would have been a living musician.

5.- Huéhuetl

The Huéhuetl is the best known drum since we can find it in current ceremonies representing the dances that were done before. Huéhuetl means "the old man" and it was made with ahuehuete wood since this tree takes a long time to grow. The huéhuetl is thought to have an ancestral and mystical meaning, as it relates to the sound of the drum with the heart of the earth.

6.- Tlalpanhuehuetl

With the drum Tlalpanhuehuetl The call to war was made from the top of the temple and its sound could be heard until the 12km. This instrument was also used for the village festivities.

These are some percussive instruments that were used in ancient Mexico. Although on the one hand the basic drum that is made up of a piece of wood and a skin patch has appeared in different cultures, without a doubt how it is played, the type of wood with which it is made and the meaning that is given to it in each of the towns makes it sound totally different.

Ukuleleria Cdmx
Ukuleleria Cdmx


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