Xochimoki, which translates as ‘Flower of the ancient Ones’ was formed in 1984, by North American ethnomusicologist Jim Berenholz and Aztec descendant and Mexican wisdom keeper, Mazatl Galindo. Their specific goal was to bring together the North and South Americas, utilising the pre- Columbian instruments of the Aztecs, Mayans and other Mesoamerican civilizations.
The duo met when Berenholz, then in his early 20’s began travelling to Mexico and Central America. They have since performed numerous concerts together. This recording gathers highlights from their two self-released cassettes, their soundtrack to the Albuquerque Museum’s touring exhibition MAYA: Treasures of an Ancient Civilization, and several other discs worth of further soundtrack music.
It truly is a fascinating listen. There are thousands of years of civilization in their sounds. At times it feels quite ritualistic, at others it borders on sound art. Regardless it is music with power and trance like qualities. The interplay of vocals in particular is quite fascinating and unexpected. The ancient instruments – over a 100 types of wind and percussion instruments really separate this music from everything else you have heard.
Given it’s a duo, the recordings are quite stark and minimal, at times referencing the natural world, at others seeming like a primitive cousin to Krautrock. There’s a certain percussive rigidity to their pieces, with shimmering rattles and woodwind sounds that connect to the soul. Everything is tightly controlled and feels like it has meaning. Nothing feels out of place.
This is strange and beautiful music, imbued with the spirit of ancient civilizations, and though these ancestors at times did terrible things to each other, strangely enough this music feels like tonic, like medicine for these troubled times.