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21 Days of Musica Latina: Guatemala

Sara Curruchich
Xun Ciin
/
Courtesy of the artist
Sara Curruchich

Editor's Note: To commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month this year, World Cafe is going on a musical tour of Latin America. Every weekday from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, we'll spotlight the music of a different Latin American country with a curated playlist of essential tracks, fresh voices and wild cards.

As with many of our 21 Days playlists, our excursion into music in Guatemala is rooted in the country's Indigenous traditions.

For centuries, Maya peoples have used a variety of wind and percussion instruments, like ocarinas, guiros and rattles, that are still present in the work of artists today. Sara Curruchich and Ch'umilkaj are both singer-songwriters of Kaqchikel descent who blend traditional folk music with more contemporary instrumentation, writing songs about Guatemala's Indigenous peoples and their fight for equality.

Then, there's an instrument that holds a special place in Guatemala's musical history: The marimba has been popular here ever since enslaved people from Africa brought early versions of the percussion instrument. You can hear it in this playlist from groups like Maderas Chapinas and Bohemia Suburbana.

Possibly one of our favorite threads in this playlist is the bevy of vibrant indie pop music from artists like Tita, Los Florifundia and Tijuana Love. We highly recommend Tita's 2022 album, Mundo Cruel.

Also in the mix is Grammy-nominated songwriter and guitarist Gaby Moreno. We've included an album cut, featuring fellow Guatemalan Oscar Isaac, from her 2023 acoustic album, X Mí (Vol. 1).

Enjoy, and make sure you come back tomorrow to find out where World Cafe's headed next.

Copyright 2023 XPN

Miguel Perez
Miguel Perez is a radio producer for NPR's World Cafe, based out of WXPN in Philadelphia. Before that, he covered arts, music and culture for KERA in Dallas. He reported on everything from the rise of NFTs in the music industry to the enduring significance of gay and lesbian bars to the LGBTQ community in North Texas.
Byron Gonzalez
Guatemalan born and Los Angeles raised, Byron Gonzalez graduated from California State University, Northridge with a Bachelor's in journalism, with an emphasis on broadcast. Shortly thereafter, Gonzalez became the program director of Los Angeles' only 24-hour Latin Alternative radio station, The Latin Alt (latinalt.org). He's also a Latin Roots correspondent for NPR's World Cafe program. He has dedicated his career to highlighting a wide selection of music from established, emerging and independent artists with roots in Latin America, Brazil and Spain.