Pre-Columbian Indian Music of Mexico & Guatemala

This week, Henrietta Yurchenco will play a number of examples of Pre-Columbian Indian music, from her own collection of field recordings, conducted in Mexico & Guatemala. This includes music from totally isolated rural communities living as they have for thousands of years, as well as examples of the last remnants of music from the great Mayan cities, the high Mayan civilization. Henrietta gives us a first hand account from the pioneer days of ethnomusicology; bad roads or no roads at all, mountains, deserts, scorpions & mules. Henrietta and Eli discuss early dubiously portable recording equipment, shamans and shamanism, animal sacrifice, peyote rituals…and lots more.

Pre-Columbian Indian Music of Mexico & Guatemala
Check out below photos from Henrietta’s journeys. Particularly the photos of “Baile De Las Canastas”- The Dance of the Baskets. These are the only photos of an ancient piece of Mayan theater celebrating the transition from hunter-gather society into sedentary agricultural society (growing corn). This play is now vanished, seemingly for good.

For more information on all the stuff we talked about today, be sure to check out Henrietta’s website, as well as her excellent autobiography, “Around the World in 80 Years.”


Baile De Las Canastas (Dance of the Baskets)

Top: Henrietta Yurchenco with Mexican Indian
Bottom: Henrietta with photographer Augustin Maya and unidentified woman

Mexican Indian playing drum

Promo-photo for recording machine used by Henrietta Yurchenco in the field.


  1. Scott Hadley

    Thank you for what was perhaps my favorite program from Henrietta Yurchenco. Just the stories of her adventures on how she got to those remote places was absolutely fascinating. I am glad she got those recordings but I also agree with her that it is sad that those traditions are gone. I am also sorry to hear abot Henrietta’s passing. I am certainly a great admirer of hers.
    All the best from
    Scott Hadley,
    Puebla, Mexico

  2. Hey Scott,

    Thank you very much for your comments and very glad you enjoyed the shows. She is greatly missed. I recommend her excellent autobiography, “Around the World in 80 Years,” if you would like to learn more about her life. A lot of her comes across in the pages of that book.

    All best


  3. Raúl de la O

    Thank you Eli for such a wonderful work. This brings some hope for people like me wanting to know more of our native culture prior to “modern society” It feels as a breath of fresh air to me. Keep up the good work.

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