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    K'ek chi' Strings in Italy | August 2003
Florencio Mess and the Maya K'ek chi' Strings Perform in Italy
"All the performances ended with encores and people dancing on stage with Florencio Mess."
A group of four traditional musicians from the villages of San Pedro Columbia and San Miguel in the Toledo District embarked on a historic ten day trip to Italy to take part in the 25th edition of the FOLKFEST festival, one of Italy’s most prestigious summer world music festivals.

The group, comprised of Florencio Mess on harp, Leonardo Cal on guitar, Miguel Kus on violin, and Juan Ical on percussion gave a total of four concerts in northern Italy.

"The Italian public gave the group a very warm reception; it was a total success and an unforgettable experience for all of us, " commented Leonardo Cal, who was also the group’s coordinator during the tour.

"All the performances ended with encores and people dancing on stage with Florencio Mess," added Stonetree Record’s director Ivan Duran, who also traveled with the group.

FOLKFEST founder Andrea Del Favero was first introduced to Belizean music at the Stonetree Records booth during the 2002 World Music Expo in Germany. " I was intrigued by this music," said Del Favero, "our audience has never heard of this type of harp Maya music and our festival is honored to present them as this year’s edition to the festival."

For this trip. Florencio Mess especially hand built the harp, guitar, and violin used during the first-ever European performances. It took Mess 43 days to complete the instruments, using a piece of cedar from the nearby rain forest.

"In the middle of the performaces, I would go to the microphone and tell the audience the story of how the instruments were built; this always drawed a huge round of applause."

"After the presentations, people would gather around the harp and ask many questions about the music and culture," said Mr. Cal.

The month-long festival attracted thousands of music lovers to its more than 20 stages across six different northern towns. This year's program included such international acts as Van Morrison, Procol Harum, Los de Abajo plus over twenty folk and alternative artists from around the world.

Brukdown King, Mr. Wilfred Peters and his Boom & Chime has already been invited in the next year’s edition of the festival.

Stonetree’s promotion manager Hector Martinez noted, "This is the first time in the record label’s nine year history that we have been successful in organizing a Maya harp performance in Europe. I hope this opens more doors for the group so they can perform abroad more often. This has been a labor of love for the Stonetree team, and we are very proud of the results," he concluded.

Maya harp music and instrument making is a dying art form in Belize; very few young persons are picking up the skills. This type of international exposure and recognition is vital for the preservation of the Maya and other traditional music styles in Belize.

Stonetree artists have already performed in more than 15 countries across Europe, Asia, and America. Where next?... "We would like to take Belizean Creole and Garifuna music to West Africa," concluded Duran.

For more information, please contact Hector Martinez at 501.823.2241; or Leonardo Cal at 501.722.2531
 
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