Various Artists

Mexico: The Festival of San Miguel Tzinacapan

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Located in the Mexican state of Puebla, San Miguel Tzinacapan is a tiny village some seven hours or more from Mexico City. The name of the town means, literally, "Saint Michael of the Bat Springs," and the language spoken is the Indian dialect called Nahuatl, or, as we Yanks like to say, "Aztec." This recording was done in the field during an annual festival held between September 28 and October 3, which brings neighboring villages to San Miguel Tzinacapan to reenact an elaborate three-day play and to sing and dance in homage to the archangel Saint Michael. The music here is all an accompaniment of the various dances that have deep historical and religious significance to the Indians. However, that does not translate necessarily on a recording, and certainly hasn't here. The chants are all very similar, as are the monotonous rhythms. Without a visual -- with the exception of the occasional explosion of gunpowder -- there is little here other than the drumbeat (which admittedly becomes hypnotic after a while) and the small wooden flutes that play a repetitious melody. Dogs yip and bark, kids laugh in the background, and the drums and flute play constantly without a lyric or change of inflection. Ocora's mission to document the remaining folk musics of the world is very admirable but, in some cases, those documents aren't necessarily compelling. This is one such case, where only anthropologists and regional people would be compelled to have any interest in a field recording of this festival.

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