Annual Maya Mountains Folk Music Festival of Western Belize, 2004

Silvia Pinzon doing guitar solo at Festival
Silvia is the SPONSOR of the first ever Maya Mountains Folk Music Festival of Belize, in 2004

Welcome to our website of the First Ever -- ANNUAL Maya Mountains Folk Music Festival of Xmas Break 2004, in the foothills of Western Belize. The highlight of the Festival was Mr. Felipe Moralez of San Jose Succotz village who played in the Alma Belicena Marimba Band at 91 years old. He has been playing Marimba at village festivals and weddings since he was 14 years old, some 77 years now. He is a NATIONAL TREASURE OF THE NATION OF BELIZE.

Miami Dade College administrator from Miami, Florida, Silvia Pinzon, was the SPONSOR of this First Annual Folk Music Festival. A contribution to pay participants expenses was also donated by Terry Warburton of Warburton Industries, maker of musical brass mouthpieces from Olvieda, Florida. Rick Zahniser of Corozal, a retiree living 5 hours drive to the north in Belize, contributed his skill on the guitar, the sound system and electronic apparatus. It was a long drive to Hillview and the Festival for Rick, he helped make it happen. Ray Auxillou was the logistics and organizer. Ray Auxillou and Silvia Pinzon are married and have Hacienda Falconview, in Hillview, Cayo District, Western Belize. The site of the Festival on the side of this valley was held in a screened tent in their backyard. This first Festival had about 40 observers.

This is Hacienda Falconview in Hillview, Belize.
The location is in Western Belize in the foothills of the Belize Alps.


We had a lot of fun. What we found was there were about six Marimba instruments around Western Belize but few players. Most of these were old. The youngest player being 40 years old. Most players being between 64 and 91 years old. There is some tuition offered in a border town called Benque de Viejo but seems not to have any students?

What our Festival Committee has devised in cooperation with the Belize Development Trust, an internet based NGO of volunteers around the world interested in helping Belize, is the idea to put up a CHALLENGE PRIZE. We think for 2005 we would like to accumulate donations to the amount of $1000 for the first Belizean teenager that can play twelve musical pieces on the Marimba a local Folk Music instrument, to be judged by the old players now dying out. We think financial prize motivation might work better than other methods, as it seems to have worked well on Space Ship One, to be the first privately owned and built spaceship, or the Gossamer Challenger to fly across the English Channel under human power alone.
10% of prize money donated would go to advertising and 90% would go to the prize. If no teenager competes in 2005 we would solicit donations again in 2006 and up the ante, until it became a goal for Belizean teenagers to learn the local folk music before all the old players die out and we lose the traditions and teachers. If you can donate, send a cheque to me as TRUSTEE of the Belize Development Trust ( we are on the internet and have been doing good works in Belize through volunteers for 11 years). What I'd really like to see is a big industrial donation, but any amount can be pooled to make it interesting as a CHALLENGE PRIZE!

Can you help us revive this dying tradition of Marimba music playing in Western Belize? Please donate!

Rick Zahniser doing his solo performances.
Rick is a US retiree living in Belize and plays lots of stuff on the guitar.

CLICK HERE for a web page describing Western Belize with photographs.

CLICK HERE to go to web site of Western Belize Tour Operators with photos and prices of adventures, ruins trips and expeditions.

CLICK HERE to go to the beginning site of the MAYA MOUNTAINS FOLK MUSIC FESTIVAL with photo's.

CLICK HERE to see photos and story of the Alma Belicena Marimba Band Folk Music of Western Belize for a hundred years and more. This band is from San Jose Succotz, opposite the Xunantanich Mayan ruin pyramid on the banks of the Mopan River.



The festival is scheduled to start at 3PM and so I set
up my speakers, PA amplifier, mikes, and a couple of little guitaramps. Ray tells me that the Marimba Players a) have been delayed and b)he has to go get the marimba in his pickup. I use this opportunity to take a nap!!.

Before the marimba arrives, I play a couple of tunes just to "open the show" and then we wait for the marimba. When it arrives, I am astounded. I have seen marimbas before, little ones, big concert grand ones, but this is humongous!! Eight feet long, instead of pipes on the bottom, it has cubical wooden resonators at the bass end. It is played by four players. Two, on the right, play "the right hand". Two on the left play "the left hand" -- the "stride" part in barrelhouse piano.

In detail, numbering the guys from right to left:
Number two plays the melody. Number one plays harmony above the melody, usually a third above. They use hard mallets, and play with lots of volume and trills/rolls -- typical of marimba. Number three plays chords with three softer mallets; the bars he's playing are reinforced by square pipes which have a membrane inside of them which buzzes as he plays the chord. Number four is the bass man -- he uses two big soft mallets to play bass, and frequently plays octaves, just like a good stride piano player.

SIDEBAR: I went looking for this marimba on the Internet. It is a Guatemalan instrument -- actually the national instrument of Guatemala -- and you should search with Guatemala as well as Marimba. It is actually called a _Marimba doble_. You can see one at,
but it is not as fancy as the one these guys had. Theirs has "Alma Belicena" in big letters on the front, and they are the "Alma Belicina Marimba Band." (I think that means "Our Belizeans") The bass bars are about 16" long, and of course, there are two rows -- "black keys & white keys" -- altho these are all the same rich mahogany color. The players are as remarkable as their instrument is 50 years old.

FELIPE, 91 years old, plays melody & bass. (And
probably everything else.) He started making Marimbas when he was 13, here in Cayo District. Can you imagine what Cayo was like in 1926? JUNGLE! Nothing but hand tools.
Filipe made the instrument the band is playing on. By

ELEODORO, 73, looks about 50, plays both melody and
bass, and plays both with real authority. He knows most of the new tunes, and Felipe knows the old standard melodies.

ELFEGO, SR., 64, is very distinguished looking, and
speaks English better than any of the others (altho none of them are bad.) He plays the high part, and I think he improvises more than anyone else. There are no "ad lib" choruses when you have four guys playing tightly together like these guys do, but I think he throws in some variations in his harmonies.

ELFEGO, JR, 39, is Sr's son, and the baby of the group. He plays Chords, and seems to enjoy this very basic, but totally foundational job. I am very sympathetic, because the part is much like the rhythm guitar part in a big band. But he plays with gusto,particularly when there's a series of passing chords on the basically simple tunes. The passing tones will be on the sharp/flat keys, and he whacks them extra hard. And the bass goes along very closely, because, after all, these two make up the left hand of a stride piano part.

The music --WONDERFUL -- is similar to Mexican music, and they play a lot of tunes that are familiar. El Rancho Grande, El Demonio Colorado, "The Gay Caballero" -- which is called simply "Caballero" and a host of Polkas and Waltzes. They don't sing, and they don't talk while they play. (I think they're too busy!!) The melody player signals the last chorus by putting up a mallet vertically on one of the bars for a measure or two and they end together. (Victory, as with all musicians, is when you all end together!!)


When the marimba guys take a break, I play a couple or
three country/western tunes. For the later breaks, I have a young guitar player who is more of a boat anchor than a help, but he does pretty well in the Key of D, so we stay there. He likes my bass runs on the guitar and learns several of them during the evening. Sometimes, we (musicians) are playing to a house of three or four, but as the sun goes down, people start showing up and filling the chairs. It's free, of course, but people really seem to appreciate what they're hearing. Boy, I do! I wouldn't have missed it for anything. Ray is glad that I showed up, to "fill in the blanks" and he buys me a tank of gas to show his appreciation.


Well, remember that my wipers don't work? This becomes a problem about the time I hit the Burrell Boom cutoff and it begins to rain. It doesn't rain Seriously until I arrive at Edgewater about 11:30 and decide to get a hamburger. This is a signal for a deluge; it rains about an inch in 20 minutes. The hamburger is wonderful, as is the
Belikin Beer that goes along with it. $6.50, ($3.25 USA ) Beer & Sandwich & I leave a two shilling tip. I recommend the place. Driving in the rain, without wipers, is a challenge, but Betsy my pickup seems to run better in the rain, and we outrun the rain at the Corozal District line and cruise into Corozal at 1PM, and start getting ready for New Years Eve. Getting ready is a series of naps, but
that's another story.


Ray Auxillou on the right working marimba base.
This is an evening dusk photo with poor lighting of the Alma Belicena, Succotz village marimba band.

The Maya Mountains Folk Music Festival started in the afternoon in the backyard of Hacienda Falconview. This photo is Rene on the pan pipes. He doesn't speak a lot of English, mostly Spanish.
Local indigeneous Mayan Indian, Rene on the pipes.
Rene Garcia lives in Hillview and does cement work, sub contracting.

Western Highway sign to Festival and Hillview.
The side road is about half a mile up the hill off the Western highway.

This is a photo of the construction of a Marimba
Felipe Moralez made this instrument 50 years ago in his late 40's at middle age. He is now 91 yrs

This instrument is 50 years old and made from jungle hardwoods by hand. The bands here carry this big instrument around by truck to their playing gigs, which they do as a sideline work. You can see the interesting sound boxes. The music is fantastic with four players and they have another instrument, they didn't bring, as they couldn't get enough players. That would have made a 6, or 8 man orchestra. I had to carry them and their instrument back and forth to their village in my pickup truck. They also got their supper included, which I bought down the hill from a Chinese immigrant restaurant and soft drinks during the hours they were at the Festival. They received $20 USA each, for three hours playing, in three selections at a time, with breaks in between.

You can contact Ray Auxillou at e-mail:

CLICK HERE to send an e-mail to the organizer Ray Auxillou.

The TEENAGE MARIMBA CONTEST for the 2005 Festival

The committee has decided to hold a teenage beginners contest for the next 2005 MAYA MOUNTAINS FOLK MUSIC FESTIVAL, to be held at Falconview Hacienda in Hillview, Cayo District, Belize. Either in August, or December, but probably in December, 2005?

Donated funds are being requested to put a GRAND PRIZE to encourage teenagers to learn to play the Marimba Folk Music Instrument of Western Belize, before all the old players die out. The contest rules are: 1) There must be a minimum of three contestants, each capable of playing 15 song melodies. 2) That contestants can be male of female and must be between the ages of 13 and 19 years of age, resident in the Cayo District of Belize. 3) Additional scoring marks will be given for costume and style, including trolls and rills. Versality is paramount!

So far, we have pledged donations for the Grand Prize for this BELIZEAN TEENAGE MARIMBA FOLK MUSIC CONTEST of $1,400 Bz and more. Donors so far are: Al Ayers a Belizean living in the USA, Kevin Chisolm a Canadian living in Cape Breton, KC in Florida, Brooks and Irene Mason living in Northern California, Wendy Auxillou of Auxillou Beach Suites living on Caye Caulker in Belize and Sharon Auxillou Usrcheler of Tradewind Beach Suites of Caye Caulker.

We hope to get more donors and get this GRAND PRIZE over $5000 Bz with a little luck! Why don't you chip in and help us out, and make this developing a new generation of new musicians in the 100 year old music of Western Belize a success? Can you spare a bit of money? Remember $50 USA is $100 Bz. One hundred percent is going to the FESTIVAL. This is non-profit!

CLICK RIGHT ON HERE to go to an update on the 2005 Marimba Contest

$25 for one, $20 each for a dozen, $15 each for two dozen and over. These are collectors copies!

CD's are made one at a time! These are not mass produced, but a labor of love! There are not many of these CD's out there! Less than half a dozen so far! They are more souvenir and historical cultural heritage folk music memories of yesteryear. The old Marimba players are dying out! We hope to get new youngsters started. But just in case. This music is history already! The Marimba, a wooden instrument is made out of jungle hardwoods and played with chicle gum sticks and has been recorded as an instrument in Western Belize for nearly 200 years. The oldest living playing musician has been playing professionally for 77 years.
All CD money is charitable and goes to support the Annual MAYA MOUNTAIN FOLK MUSIC FESTIVAL.

We were not able this year, to get any of the steel bands from the coast, from a hundred miles away to make the trip to the Festival. Nor could we afford to pay the fees for many of the professional bands catering to the tourism industry. Nor were we able to get some unique Carib drummers for lack of cash to pay their travel expenses and fees. There is a sort of rennaiscance in Belize of music these days, as the novelty of television seems to be wearing off.

For the moment we are going to concentrate on trying to get teenagers to learn the Marimba playing with a CHALLENGE PRIZE. If volunteers would donate toward this endeavor? Teenagers could make a good sideline living income, catering to the hotels and lodges and cruise ship crowds. There is nothing more romantic and beautiful to fill the senses with wonder, than 6 to 12 musicians playing a multitude of assorted size Melody marimba instruments at the same time. We need replacement musicians in Belize, for this old generation dying out. We don't get much of the high pressure tourist crowds out here in the Western area of Belize. Things are more quiet with a few exotic adventures and Maya ruins being the main attractions, along with unique jungle lodges back in the bush.

There are some new types of Belizean unique instruments planned for next year and there are certainly players of many other types of music around Belize. But costs and travel distances are high. With time, we expect the ANNUAL MAYA MOUNTAINS FOLK MUSIC FESTIVAL TO GROW and be unique.

This was the first Maya Mountains Folk Music Festival held in Western Belize during the Xmas Break of 2004, sponsored by Miami Dade College administrator, Silvia Pinzon; who has a vacation home with her husband Ray Auxillou, in Hillview, Cayo District, Western Belize.