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June 06, 2013

Come for the festival, stay for the concert: Central American pottery and Maya music—Saturday, June 8, at the museum in Washington

If you love world music and you’re going to be anywhere near Washington, D.C., Saturday, make your way to the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall for Cerámica de los Ancestros: A Central American Pottery Festival, then stay for Ranferí Aguilar and an Indian Summer Showcase concert featuring music inspired by Maya culture.

You may be thinking, “The concert I understand, but what do ceramics have to do with music?” The answer is prehispanic Maya pottery instruments. Between about 10:30 AM and 4 PM Saturday, Aguilar and Carlos Chaclán will show visitors how Maya ceramic instruments were made and how they are played. At 5 PM Saturday, Aguilar and Chaclán will take the stage with bandmates Juan Aguirre and Mynor García.

Carlos Chaclán and Ranferí Aguilar—detail from a poster for their performance at the club TrovaJazz. Guatemala City, 2012. Courtesy of Ranferí Aguilar
Ranferí Aguilar was born in Guatemala City, where he studied classical guitar. In 1979 he and his cousins founded the Central American rock group Alux Nahual. After the band broke up in 1999, Aguilar became interested in the archaeological and musical roots of Mesoamerican culture. His current work has been described as “ancestral Maya music fused with guitars, prehispanic wind instruments, and vocals.”

Born in Totónicapan, Guatemala, Carlos Chaclán began helping his parents make clay bricks and roof tiles while he was still a young boy. When he was 16, he won the first in a series of scholarships to study ceramics, archaeological conservation, and Mesoamerican cultural history. Most recently he received a Sallie R. Wagner Indigenous American Artist/Scholar Fellowship to the Indian Arts Research Center of the School for Advanced Research (SAR) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he exchanged ideas, techniques, and theories with Southwest Pueblo clay artists. His ceramics include both contemporary sculpture and traditional Maya musical instruments— including flutes and whistles in the form of birds, reptiles, plants, and human figures, and a drum that takes the shape of a human heart. 


Cerámica de los Ancestros: A Central American Pottery Festival and Chaclán and Aguilar’s demonstrations of Maya pottery instruments will continue all day Sunday. The festival and the exhibition Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed, on view at the museum on the National Mall through January 2015, are cosponsored by the National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Latino Center. 

Classic period Maya whistle in the form of a seated woman, AD 600–900. Quiché Department, Guatemala. Pottery, paint. From Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed. 12/3599



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