Mayan ceremony

Traditional Maya Music

Music was a critical part of the ancient Maya lifestyle, featuring in every event from ceremonies, war, celebration, and even ritual sacrifice. The Spanish conquistadors worked hard to end ritual Mayan music, and executed dancers and musicians first in their conquest. While we don’t have much information about original ancient Maya, we know some things about their music.

A Mayan Conch shell with carved decoration for traditional music

A conch shell made into an instrument with decorative Mayan designs.

Instruments of the Maya

The ancient Maya used several types of handmade instruments, some of very impressive creation. Long trumpets with gourds at the end announced visitors and followed the king. Beeswax, an important export of Tulum, made a seal on the end of the trumpet against the musician’s mouth. They also used conch shells as horns, which they played by creating a hole at the point with additional holes added for other notes. Additionally, they made rattles (moracas), ceremonial flutes much like modern-day recorders, and ocarinas which we still find today.

They made drums of wood, sometimes topped by jaguar skins, and were very important to set the rhythm and determine the type of song and dance. While the drumming style would indicate song, it was the job of the “holpop” to be the town’s musical director. They not only set the keys of each song and taught music, but were the keeper of all instruments. They also ornately decorated all these sacred objects. Sometimes they were engraved with flowers, which were associated with music in Mayan paintings of ceremonies.

Maya Music in Tulum

You may even hear and see some of the recreations of Maya musical rituals throughout the streets of Tulum. The rhythms of the drumming hypnotises while the elaborately costumed musicians perform these unique and uncanny sounds. It is an experience like no other, and is just another part of the magic of Tulum. Come see the magic for yourself, and stay in a vacation rental via BRM rentals!

Discover more about Traditional Maya Dress or the fascinating Maya Language!