Our Jungle Book Story

And now we present the third Wonder, Chichén Itzá.

Thus far our tradition has been to mix timeless classical music with contemporary film scores. We also love infusing local and historical culture in our arrangements. For this Wonder we wanted to stay true to this tradition while simultaneously nailing “jungle harmony,” as a famous cartoon bear once coined in…Disney’s Jungle Book! But in this decision we were confronted with an entangling challenge — to effectively blend the cacophony of Disney Jazz, classical music, Mayan heritage, all while making it epic enough to be filmed in front of a massively-historic, world-renowned stone temple!

First, it was vital that we carefully, thoughtfully pay proper respect to the “wonder” of “El Castillo,” its surrounding artifacts, and the Mayan spirit that pervades Chichén Itzá. The Mayans were an incredible people — adept astronomers, unprecedented builders, and incomparable artisans. Their ability to use architecture in an acoustic way especially impresses us. For instance, you can stand upon a step at one end of the plaza and be heard clearly on a step at the opposite end. The Mayans also used instrumental music in nearly every aspect of their culture. Listen closely — you’ll hear actual Mayan percussion patterns and authentic Mayan wind instruments, along with the cello imitating these sounds. The pinnacle of this video shoot was when our gracious host at Chichén Itzá told us that he could feel the Mayan spirits dancing to our music as we played.

Yes, “Bear Necessities” was an obvious choice, but instead of its original jazz setting we utilized Mayan percussion and a more Latin-based call and answer feel. We also used the melody in fragments, in the minor mode, and even slightly varied it to fit over the top of the Baroque equivalent of a “walking bass,” taken from the Classical piece, “Sarabande” by George Frideric Handel. Handel gave us a rich, deeply moving chord progression that helped us achieve a more “epic” sound. Listen to his piece here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSAd3NpDi6Q. Lastly, for more melodic material and to reference the “old school” Disney movie soundtrack we chose to include the haunting melody “My Own Home.” In the end this was a dauntingly fulfilling musical journey.

Filming it in just the right vein was just as challenging. We wish to sincerely express our deepest gratitude to the National Archeology and History Institute (www.inah.gob.mx) and Cultur Yucatan (www.culturyucatan.com) for allowing us the profound privilege of filming at Chichén Itzá. Were it not for them and their warm hospitality this video shoot would not have been possible.

We also wish to thank our second filming location, Xcaret (where we filmed the jungle river and stage scenes). Xcaret is a fun-filled family friendly park built right in the middle of the jungle that immerses you in cultural food, entertainment and adventure. Check it out here: www.xcaret.com

Steve is playing the most recent addition to his cello family, “Maya,” hand painted in Mayan hieroglyphic style by Juleez (Julie Borden) just for this video. Her uniquely creative masterpieces are only matched by her equally vibrant spirit and enthusiasm for musically influenced art. See more of her instrument artwork here: www.juleez.com. Thank you, Julie!