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Songs that Make the Road Dance


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Table of Contents


Allen Christenson

Sandra Orellana



A Personal Note

Research in Santiago Atitlan

Chapter 1. The World of the Tz'utujil Maya

The World of Spirits:

Prayer of Nicolas Chiviliu Takaxoy

"Song of the Spirit-Lord of the World"

Duality and Metaphor in the Santo Mundo

The Presence of the Nawals

Chapter 2: The Dance and Songs of the Nawals

Old Mam Creates the "Recibos":

"Song of Francisco Sojuel"

Dance, Movement and Songs: the Divine Currency of Sacrifice

Dancing the Bundle of San Martin:

Midwife's prayer and "Song of San Martin"

Rocking the Cradle of the Marias:

"Song of the Rocking Cradle"

Dancing the Wind-men and the Rain-men

Rousing San Martin and the Spirit-Lords of Rain with Song:

"Song of Martin"

Calling the Spirits of the Dead and the Drowned with Song:

"Song of the Drowned"

Chapter 3: The "Songs of the Road": Texts and Contexts

The Road in the Tz'utujil Maya World

Old Mam, the Guardian of the Road, Creates Music and Dance:

"Songs of Mam"

The Third "Song of the Road", Songs of Fertility:

"Songs of the Young Man"

"Songs of the Young Girl"

"Atpal": a Narrative Song of Courting

"Songs of the Young Men and Young Girls, of Insults and Ridicule"

"Songs of the Old Maid"

Witchcraft and Shape-shifters in the Songs:

"Song of the Young Girl"

Sad Songs or "Tristes":

"They Fought"

"Sad Song of Our Fathers, Our Mothers"

Songs of the Flowers and the Fruit

"Songs of the Fruit"

Chapter 4: The Poetics of Tz'utujil Songs and their Relationship to K'iche'an Literature

The Poetics of the Popol Vuh

The Poetics of Tz'utujil Song Texts

Composition of the Texts and the Influence of Musical Rhythm

Chapter 5: The Music of the "Songs of the Nawals"

Musical Form and Style of the Songs

The "Recibos of Old Mam", the Vessels of Tz'utujil Culture: The "Song of Mam"

"Sad Song of the Young Man"

"Song of the Girl Who Says Goodbye to Her Mother"

"Song of the Old Maid" or "Song of the Road"

"Song of the Fruit"

The Tz'utujil guitar:

Historical Origins of the Tz'utujil Guitar


Playing style and technique


How the Songs Survived: the Process of Assimilation and Transmission

Final Words

Contents of the Compact Discs

Works Cited


Promotional Information

"This book is just as important, I believe, as early Colonial indigenous Titles and Testaments for the study of highland Maya theology and worldview. The interpretive material in the book is sound and well grounded in relevant current scholarship, but O'Brien wisely lets the Tz'utujils speak for themselves for the most part." -- Allen J. Christenson, Professor of Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature, Brigham Young University; author of Art and Society in a Highland Maya Community; and translator and editor of Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Maya

About the Author

Linda O'Brien-Rothe is an independent scholar who holds a PhD in ethnomusicology from UCLA. She documented the "Songs of the Old Ones" from 1966 to 1975, and she has devoted the years since then to study and analysis of her large collection of music and of the belief systems and related survivals of music and oral literature of the highland Maya.

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