Zapotecano

Zapotecano

(1993-02-01) Donated by the Celeste and Emil Richards Estate.

Mexican Buzzing Marimba manufactured by the Mancilla family

Native to the Central American countries of Guatemala and Mexico, buzz marimbas, also known as a zapotecano, are considered by many to be the national instrument of Guatemala. When performed in public, there are usually two instruments, each played by three or more performers using rubber-ended mallets.

Although these marimbas are entirely handmade of wood, the unique buzzing sound is produced by cutting a small hole in the resonator box, which is then covered by a delicate membrane of pig intestine. The membrane, called a tela, is attached using beeswax. The buzzing sound is referred to as charleo, which is a necessary sound for the tone of an authentic marimba from this region. As the instruments are handmade, the frames are usually ornately carved or constructed with inlaid woodworking designs.

This instrument, which is 70 inches long and 38 inches high, has a 4 1/2-octave chromatic range from C3 to F7. The 5/8-inch thick bars, which range in length from 5 3/4 inches to 18 1/2 inches, are made from hormigo wood. The resonators, which are rectangular-shaped boxes with pointed ends, are made from Spanish cedar and range in length from 1 1/2 inches to 23 1/2 inches.

It was made during the 1940s by the Mancilla family of marimba makers in Tuxtula Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico. It appears that the original bars, frame, and ornate inlaid design are the work of the father, Cresencio, but there are repairs and modification to the legs and resonators by his son, Alfredo.