Meet Sara Curruchich, the singer-songwriter bringing Maya Kaqchikel culture to the world

A woman with dark hair plays a guitar while singing before a microphone
Sara Curruchich performs at the Getty Center’s Harold M. Williams Auditorium.
(James Carbone / For The Times)

As the opening notes of “Luna de Xelajú” ring through the Getty Center’s Harold M. Williams Auditorium, a few heads in the front row begin to sway along to the sound of the marimba and the bass.

“Luna gardenia de plata,” Sara Curruchich croons into the mic, drawing applause from those in the audience who instantly recognize the waltz. As the electrified rendition of what many consider to be Guatemala’s unofficial anthem progresses, many in the crowd start to accompany her, singing along in different pitches, octaves and tones.

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For two nights in mid-April, the 30-year-old singer-songwriter brought a slice of Guatemala to the Getty’s “Sounds of L.A.” series. Her sound blends folk, rock and traditional music with lyrics in Spanish and in Maya Kaqchikel. Curruchich says these performances are part of her broader effort to share her culture with the world. She’s since taken her mission overseas, completing a series of shows across Europe last week.

Born in San Juan Comalapa, a small town in Guatemala’s central highlands that’s predominantly Kaqchikel, Curruchich grew up surrounded by the arts. It’s how her community keeps its history alive, she says.


“Through the different artistic expressions of my pueblo, we remember things that have happened in history,” Curruchich said.”Many of these events we saw as kids in a painting or on a fabric. It’s very valuable to me because Guatemala has unfortunately denied our history. What we know about, what we live, is through art.”

Two women, one dressed in a shirt with yellow-and-red flowers, hold sticks as they play a xylophone-like instrument
Sara Curruchich, right, plays the marimba with band member Sandra Moreno.
(James Carbone / For The Times)

Curruchich’s career began to take off in 2015, after the release of “Ch’uti’xtän” (“Girl”), a tender, bilingual ballad about young love. In the years since, Curruchich has released two albums — “Somos” (2019) and “Mujer Indígena” (2021) — and several singles that speak to her experience as an Indigenous woman.

Curruchich says that singing in her mother language is a way for her to carry her community wherever she goes.

“It doesn’t matter where I’m singing. When I am singing in Kaqchikel specifically, it is a way to bring my grandmothers and grandfathers to the place where I am,” she said. “It’s a way of honoring my roots. It lets our ancestors’ spirits who live in that place know that their languages and roots are very important in the world.”

Although small in stature, Curruchich has an outsized presence onstage. Dressed in a traditional flowy blouse and long fitted skirt, she leads her all-female band — a bassist, a drummer and a marimba player — through a 90-minute set of songs about resistance.

A woman with a guitar, her arms outstretched, sings before a microphone
(James Carbone / For The Times)

The quartet opens with “Pueblos,” a 2021 song released with Mexican singer Lila Downs that calls on Indigenous people to stand tall and fight injustice. The band also performed “Ixoqi,” an upbeat track from “Somos” that doubles as a love letter to the land, and “Mujer Indígena,” the title track off her sophomore album that pays tribute to generations of women from her community.

As the show nears its end, Curruchich summons the audience of multi-generational Latino families to get closer to the stage. Fans of all ages, some wearing traditional Guatemalan garments, obliged. Hips start moving from side to side as the music plays on and Curruchich descends into the crowd, turning a sit-down concert into a full-fledged dance party.

As the song concludes and the theater lights come on, the function quickly takes on a third life — that of a meet-and-greet. Curruchich stays behind with her adoring audience, posing for pictures with fans and doling out hugs to anyone who wanted one. She might have been far from the central highlands of Guatemala, but that evening Curruchich felt right at home.