I haven't actually expired but since some people have asked I thought it would be good to note that here. You'd never know it by the neglect here at Nunal, but so it goes

But I have to say though that there has been an inverse relationship to the amount of pages I have written and the number of blog posts I have not put here. The end is in sight. It is a beautiful sight.

But it is too bad since I can't really go backward because I will never adequately capture the events of the past month or so. I have had a whirlwind of adventures though since last we spoke, to Louisiana twice, Mexico City once, and Florida too just to round out my semi-circumnavigation of the Gulf of Mexico.

Having gone to the Society of Ethnomusicologists conference in the D.F. I have to say that ethnomusicology is a superior field in most respects. The good papers on interesting topics (there were of course plenty others of less interest) stand among the most thoughtful and interesting work being done, at least to my mind. And the fact that music performance is part of the conference was even better.

The best stuff I heard was Música Huichola, which I had never heard before and definitely not live. It is extremely mesmerizing music on the world's crappiest looking folk fiddle accompanied by the world's crappiest looking folk jarana-type thing. Actually the fiddle was very cool, with it had a huge deer head at the peg head that was almost bigger than the instrument. The whole body was carved out of a single piece of wood, rounded bacjk. The sound is thin, edgey, crappy, and completely perfect.

The music was otherworldly, with vocals just edging into and alongside these repetitive fiddle riffs. Utterly mezmerizing. If I ever get the video from the guy sitting next to me I will post it.

The Huichola are from Jalisco and I guess they are a peyote using people. A very famous ethnomusicologist standing next to me afterward pointed out a beaded mask they were selling and said "when you take peyote people's faces look like that." He seemed to know. Actually, that was the case with several of these guys.

I was wondering how much these musicians were being folklyric for the gaping ethnomusicological types but my guess with these guys in particular was not much. (the last group that played was very self-consciously theatrical and definitely folklyric entertainment. I mentioned to someone afterward (from an Ivy League school, so one might have thought he had a brain, or at least half of one) that it was like watching a band at colonial Williamsburg. His answer was "what's that?")

The reason I didn't think of them as faux-backwoods was that they really were from the sticks. The guy playing the mando-jarana thing spoke no Spanish at all, only Huichol. When I asked the fiddler afterward how it was tuned, he took it to be a stupid question and at first refused to answer. He finally told me one string was D and the rest just sort of followed. He indicated the rest of the strings with a wave of his hand. (Though when a young woman asked him the same question a short time later he was extremely attentive...)

The music reminded me a great deal of the sacred fiddle-guitar music of the Aztecs, (of which there is a Smithsonian LP floating around). U think that stuff was from Veracruz but I can't find the liner notes just now.

That is some great stuff, I highly recommend it, even if many people I play it for look at me with a slightly uneasy expression like I am insane.

From what I gathered the Huichola have Aztec roots and what I heard was sacred music too, so it would all make sense that it was similar music.

I can't seem to find much of this stuff in a quick minute of youtube searching but here there is a very little bit at the very start for the first 40 seconds, that kind of whiney fiddling

I guess there is some real diversity in the Huichol music. The bass really changes everything, the other stuff sounds really European influenced.

Here is something the uploader titled "huicholes de nayarit" but they are playing norteño music, really great country sounding stuff,. Pinguinos del Norte style. And also some spot-on bass playing. Great anyway, worth hearing even if it is not what I heard. I love the dude filming singing off key occasionally (sounds like more than a few of my own videos, rule one to be never sing when filming...):

Two other brief mentions of some music I had a chance to hear. Over at Plaza Garibaldi, the heart of Mariachi playing in the D.F., we happened to visit it on Saint Cecilia's Day. She being the patron saint of mariachis, this was good timing. I've never been there before so I can't compare it, but the crowd was definitely big and the music great. The crowd, no matter what the age, seemed to know all of the songs and many people sang along. A really enveloping experience, and a lot of fun. At one point on stage some mariachis acted out a cockfight described in a song-- with real cocks fighting on stage. Not something you get to see in the U.S.

There were also some son jarocho bands plying the crowd and they were excellent. Funny too, from everybody's response. I stood there and caught some words and knew it was supposed to be funny but it was beyond me at this point.

That same night back at the hotel and 1 in the morning a friend and I were sitting in the lobby having a beer when we were almost-quite literally knocked out of our seats by a banda playing for a wedding downstairs. It was so sudden and so loud, hard to describe it but truly felt like being pushed over. The wedding had had a salsa band playing for awhile, but the banda came on at 1 am and proceeded to play until after 3. They played the best music I heard down there, loud, tight, and racuous and just flat-out great. We went and listened at the door, as did a few others from the conference who had been hanging around. The women were asked in to join the dancing at the wedding. My friend turned to me and asked if I thought Mexicans standing at the door listening to a band at a wedding at a fancy hotel in NY would be invited in to join...

Mexico City is an incredible place that I won't even try to characterize here, though I will post this video of a guy rolling on, and washing his face with, glass in an intersection to make money. He made the exact same series of glass rolling manuevers after each of several traffic light changes we saw, yet didn't seem to make any money. This is a tough line of business.


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