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Keeping a 1000-year old legend allive with audio files, experimental film, and music

Keeping the Legend of Michi-Cihualli alive

Michi-Cihualli is the Goddess  of the Lake.  She commands the wind and the waves and protects the Riberas, the lands around Lake Chapala.  She is also a great reason for people to make music and dance and film and art.  This weekend that all came together in the Festival of Michi in  Ajijic, Mexico.

First, the legend.

The eruption of a volcano in 1113  drove a warrior tribe called the  Mexica  to migrate to the Chapala lagoon where they found the Cocoa,  a pacifist  tribe who they then enslaved.  They also  practiced human sacrifice,  throwing babies into the hot springs around the Lake every May. Generations late in 1472 as the sacrifice began. the Lake began to rage as  a huge, female deity emerged and commanded the winds and water to  drive  away the Mexica.  Since then, her legend has continued  in paintings, murals, songs, and dances,  and to this day, she animates  the environmental organizations who fight pollution and overdevelopment of the Lake.

Michi-Cihaulli raising the wind and waves by  Antonio López el Sec

 This legend is kept alive with almost continual observation in the Riberas. – it is hard to go anywhere in the town of Ajijic without seeing Michi-Cihualli.  This weekend, the Goddess of the Lake was celebrated  for three days with experimental video, audio files, and rappers  at the La Cochera Cultural – a cultural center  and  artist’  residence.  Patty Green, a  talented young director  from the University of Guadalajara,  joined with the team at the Cochera to create an experimental film on Michi-Cihualli and a documentary on the making of the film.  The Cochera staff built a three day festival of music, dance, and art around the film’s premier.

The highlight of the festival, for me, was the live scoring of the film premier by an unusual band:  Emelia Galvéz on a mixture of hand drums, rattles and indigenous noise makers;  Eleazar Soto on a computer running sound files he had recorded over the past several months; Miguel Soto on the drums, and Juan Pi Medeles on violin and rattles.

The band worked with the filmmaker to write the score and had recorded much of the music in advance. The magic emerged as Eleazar  Soto (who is also a world-class saxophonist) played each file in coordination with the frames of the film, and the other musicians wove their unique sounds with the film and the audio files.  It was fascinating to watch Emelia Galvéz switch between large and small and drums, a digeridoo-like instrument, and rattles,  coordinating live with  other band members like free-form  jazz – only it wasn’t , it was carefully composed.

The last night we were treated to a local children’s rap group, the San Sebastian Rappers  (named for the San Sebastian neighborhood La Cochera Cultural is  located in) . They rapped their own lyrics  in an set directed by Eleazar Soto.  A legend dating from before the time of Columbus and the Conquistadors kept alive with  audio files, a computer controller, a drum kit, and a violin, and passed on to the next generation with rap and dance…all  keeping  Michi-Cihualli alive.

(Painting of Mich-Cihualli by Antonio López el Seco; Parade float  by Alejandro Camacho Barrero. Thanks to Jesú Victorian López Vega for the Legend of Michi-Cihualli . See The Making of the Legend of Michi-Cihualli at https://bit.ly/3qUPttE ).

Patrick O’Heffernan

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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (364 Articles)
Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist based in Mexico, with a global following. He focuses on music in English and Spanish that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America, especially Mexico like cumbia, banda, son jarocho, and mariachi. He is also edits a local news website and is a subeditor of a local Spanish language newspaper. Check out his weekly column Music Sin Frontera on Sunday nights.

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