While staying at Caves Branch Lodge, we took a tour into Guatemala to visit Tikal, the former Mayan capital. While there, our informative guide told us stories of Mayan history and legends, as well as the efforts being conducted to uncover and restore this ancient site. It is his voice that you hear at the start of this song, telling the story of the twins that managed to trick their way out of Xibalba, and the lethal authority of the Mayan priests. The Mayan priests installed themselves as a necessary conduit for the people to be able to communicate with the gods. They were considered divine, and the people weren’t even permitted to look up at them. They would have to approach them and depart with bowed heads, or risk having their heads chopped off. To make matters worse, decapitation was an even less attractive option then because the obsidian axes they used were fairly dull, and the executioners had poor aim because they were often tripping out on hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Xibalba (pronounced She-ball-ba) is the name for the Mayan underworld. Stylistically this song was largely influenced by my discovery of Chicha and Cumbia music. A sort of South American surf rock from the 60s. If you’re not familiar with it I’d highly recommend giving this album a listen. It’s quite fun.
Xibalba is by far the most ambitious one on the album as it features me playing more acoustic instruments than any of the others. I played a few tracks of trumpet and trombone, as well as something called Xaphoon, which is sort of like a recorder with a saxophone reed. I also played a number of percussion instruments like shakers and hand drums. I even made a cabasa out of an old tin and some bottle caps. I’m not much of a guitar player, but I played a few chords and some slower sustained notes with an electric. The rest came from my poly evolver and sample libraries. I’m quite pleased with how this one turned out. I feel like it provides a nice contrast to the other songs without being too much of a departure stylistically.
This brings us to the end of the making of Belizean Heat. I hope you found this interesting and that it helped to deepen your enjoyment of the music. If you have any questions or feedback regarding the album I would be happy to hear it.
I was able to borrow a GoPro camera for my trip to Belize, so I actually have a lot of video footage. Eventually I hope to use that footage to make videos for at least a few of the songs. This song is actually more based on video footage than field recordings, and it spent a lot of time in limbo before I figured out a direction for it. Once I did settle on a direction it was actually completed quite quickly (by my standards). It was one of the last songs finished on the album along with Stowaway, which I talked about in the last making of post. Continue reading “The Making of Belizean Heat: Part 8 – Caves Branch”
I’m grouping Hideaway and Stowaway together in this post because in a way, they are two sides of the same coin. By that I mean that they both use the same processed cricket recordings as their source.
Hideaway Caye is a tiny peaceful mangrove island and is home solely to the family that runs a guesthouse and boat access restaurant, their two dogs, along with many crabs, seabirds, iguanas, and lots of crickets. The island is so small that rather than taking their big Rottweiler out for walks, they go out in a kayak and he paddles along behind them. Our host Dustin explained to me that before they built the houses there were no crickets or iguanas. While bringing over the thatch for the roofs these little stowaways hitched a ride and then decided to call the island home. Continue reading “The Making of Belizean Heat: Part 6 & 7 – Hideaway & Stowaway”
The Garifuna are a people with a fascinating history and culture resulting from the mingling of African and Native Caribs as a result of the slave trade and colonialism. In Belize, Hopkins is known as something of a center of Garifuna culture.
While visiting there, we stumbled into an impromptu drum circle, which served as part of the foundation and inspiration for this fifth song. Most of the origin of this song however, came from the birds. Grackles to be specific.
Grackles are all over Belize; as common as crows in Vancouver. Like crows, they have a wide repertoire of vocalizations and are very social creatures. While walking down the main street in Hopkins, we heard this apocalyptic screeching coming from a large tree. It turned out to be a massive gathering of grackles having a grand old time. Of course I had to record them, and positioned myself right under the tree. One baffled woman passing by exclaimed “Aren’t you afraid they gonna poop on your head?” and if you listen closely you might be able to hear her in the song.
Shortly after I started recording, this loud bass line and reggaeton drum groove dropped from what I assume was a nearby dance studio. I was disappointed that my recording had been ruined, but my wife was excited to hear how I would incorporate it into a song. So, that bass line provided the main melody of my Garifuna Grackle Party, but I sped it up substantially and turned it into more of an old school rave track.
Most of the sounds and processing on this song were done using the Elektron Dark Trinity of Octatrack, Analog Four, and Analog RYTM. There were also a few sounds from Omnisphere and a Yamaha FB01 FM synth.
The next chapter actually covers two songs, Hideaway and Stowaway.