Tzutu Bak'tum

Mayan Hip-Hop at UCLA

Mayan Hip-Hop artist Tzutu Bak'tum held an open-air public performance.

Tzutu Bak

"It's difficult to understand, but the idea is to feel it." -Tzutu Bak'tum

Story and media by Deisy Moreno, LAI Intern

UCLA Latin American Institute, February 21, 2018 - The UCLA Latin American Institute alongside the UCLA Chicana/o Studies Research Center and the UCLA American Indian Studies Center cosponsored a performance by Mayan Hip-Hop artist Tzutu Bak’tum on Tuesday February 13, 2018. Bak’tum performed at UCLA’s Dickson Court-North in front of UCLA undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff as part of his California tour. The open air setting caught the attention of curious passersby as they stopped to film the rare Mayan Hip-Hop performance.

Bak’tum is a member of Balam Ajpu, a Mayan Hip-Hop trio who incorporates Mayan language and culture with modern Hip-Hop. Bak’tum sang songs off of the trio’s most recent album “Tribute to the 20 Nawals” which includes 20 songs that represent the 20 Nawals, or spirits, of the Mayan calendar. The stage was not a typical stage, but an altar-like set-up with candles and what looked like a turtle shell.

The performance included songs like “Saq B’ey” and “Ajmaq” which Bak’tum performed in K’iche and had the audience participate in chanting these words along with him. Bak'tum's performance included some traditional Mayan dances as well. Apart from giving thanks to the Nawals, Bak’tum also sang a song of thanks to grandparents, before starting the song he said the song was to “invoke our grandparents in all four directions.” Bak’tum went on to gesture to the north, south, east and west with his hand stretched out to the sky.

Although not all the audience members understood the lyrics of the songs, Bak’tum tried to engage the audience with every song, he said “It’s difficult to understand, but the idea is to feel it.”

To listen to Tzutu Bak’tum and Balam Ajpu’s recent album click the link below:

"Batz" (Hilo del tiempo)