Sara Curruchich, Indigenous Guatemalan singer-songwriter visits campus

Prisha Mehta, General Life&Arts Reporter

Looking out into the audience members filling Jessen Auditorium, Sara Curruchich beamed as she played a song on the Guatemalan marimba. 

Curruchich, Indigenous Guatemalan singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, visited the Butler School of Music last Tuesday, performing a free concert for students and Austin community members. In addition to playing original music, Curruchich joined music students to discuss her music, Indigenous cultural influences and experiences.  

“I felt an energy as if it were a family,” Curruchich said in an interview translated through a translation software. “It was a very moving concert. … At one point, people danced.”

Curruchich, the first Indigenous Guatemalan singer-songwriter to share her songs in Kaqchikel and Spanish on an international stage, said her music focuses primarily on the experiences of Indigenous people, bringing traditional Guatemalan music and modern sounds together to reflect the diversity and history of her people. 

“My music is a combination of Cumbia, reggae and rock with the traditional music from my people,” Curruchich said. “The principal themes I write about are Indigenous women, resistance, history and rights of women.”

From Comalapa, a Maya Kaqchikel town in Guatemala, Curruchich said her culture and background play an important role in the music she creates and performs. 

“For me, music is the perfect channel to speak about culture and identity,” Curruchich said. “Because we constantly see the annulment of the history of our peoples, it’s important for me to talk about the identity of Indigenous peoples through my music. … (Music) becomes kind of a healing process for experiences of racism that I and other Indigenous people experience.”

Robin Moore, a professor of Ethnomusicology at the Butler School of Music, helped gather the funds to support Curruchich’s visit. He said that receiving funding for artist visits often comes easier if the artist also takes part in an academic engagement in addition to their performance.

“I’m always excited to bring in guest artists that represent new musical styles and perspectives,” Moore said. “Usually, it’s a question of whether we really have funding to support it. … But in this case, there was money on the table, so thankfully, it worked out.”

Spending the morning before the concert with graduate students at the Butler School of Music, Curruchich discussed her musical style and background as an Indigenous Guatemalan woman.

“It was very enriching because the students shared their questions and their experiences,” Curruchich said. “We also spoke about the role of women in the music industry and the challenges they face.” 

Later that evening, Curruchich performed for a full audience, showcasing songs from her second album, Mujer Indígena, as well as some songs played on the marimba. 

“It was lovely because students who we had spoken to in the morning also came,” Curruchich said. “Others who found out about the concert who aren’t university students also came.”

Mercedes Payán, a graduate student at the Butler School of Music studying ethnomusicology, helped organize Sara’s visit. Payán said Sara’s visit marked an important step for Indigenous representation on campus.

“For our native Indigenous students on campus, it’s important to see other people like them on the stage,” Payán said. “Indigenous people are doing amazing things. … We have the spaces and the tools, and we can use them to support these artists.”