Various Artists

Guatemala: Celebrated Marimbas

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A nice example of the Central American marimba traditions from the old French Arion label. The music centers on Guatemala, though there are songs taken from the Honduran and Mexican repertoires as well. While the marimba is likely one of the most-heard instruments in world music, it's usually the African varieties that are heard. The sharper, harder sound of the Central American version, combined with the massive range and polyphonies (often three to seven players on a single oversized instrument), leads to a surprisingly poppy sound. Light melodies evoke Disney exoticism, chipper tunes with bouncing beats, marching carnival music minus the calliope. The dances are furious in speed and show off some noteworthy virtuosity on the part of the ensembles and their abilities in interweaving lines. Worth a listen as a fine example of the genre.

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