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Tun [c’unc’un, tunkul, tum, tyum].free

  • Andrés Amado
  •  and Matthias Stöckli

Slit drum of Mesoamerica, particularly the Yucatan peninsula, El Salvador, and Guatemala, similar to the Mexican teponaztli. Its origins are pre-Hispanic, and it is still predominantly played by Mayan musicians. Usually made of hollowed hormigo wood (Platymiscium dimorphandrum), it features an H-shaped cut on its upper side that forms two vibrating tongues producing different pitches often a 4th apart. They are struck with mallets, usually rubber-headed. When played, the tun is laid horizontally on the ground, on a stool, or on the musician’s lap. It may be played solo, in pairs of different sizes, or in ensembles with trumpets, flutes, fiddles, or guitars.

Guatemalan Mayans also apply the term tun to a double-headed cylindrical drum of European origin beaten with two rubber-headed drumsticks. In colonial dictionaries of Mayan languages tun can be found to denote trumpets. A similar instrument called k’utin or cutín is reported among the Ch’orti’ Indians of Guatemala, where it is believed to be an instrument del Señor (‘of God’) and is said to recreate the din of thunder. See A. Arrivillaga Cortés: Exposición no. 6 de Instrumentos Musicales de la Tradición Popular de Guatemala (Guatemala City, 1982).