Saturday, October 13, 2012


Although the British had its presence in Belize for centuries, the largest influences on their music come from the Africans who were brought there and the indigenous peoples who were there, and the intermixing of all cultures that came from it.

One of the genres most identified with Belizean music is brukdown. The term is most likely taken from the phrase “broken-down calypso” and is related to Trinidadian calypso music. Brukdown is a combination of Creole harmonies based on European styles, African rhythms as well as the call-and-response format. It’s really more of a rural music form. Some of the instruments that you’ll find in brukdown music are banjos, guitars, drums, bells, accordion, and a donkey’s jawbone and/or grater. In recent times, these bands have also been called “boom and chime groups.” One of the most famous brukdown musicians is Wilfred Peters, long considered one of Belize’s national icons.

Mestizo music is characterized mainly by marimba music. (I am a huge fan of the marimba, even though I mostly used to play the xylophone in college and part of high school. Once I went to the Woodwind and Brasswind store in South Bend, IN, and they had a 5 ½ octave marimba. It was so beautiful. I may or may not have drooled on it.) A marimba is in the keyboard percussion family and usually made of wood (mostly rosewood, but sometimes mahogany). It’s played with mallets, and the heads are made of yarn wrapped around rubber. There are several marimba bands that gather and perform, but probably the most famous bands are the Los Angeles Marimba Band and the Alma Belicena.

The Garifuna also have many of their own styles of music, the most popular being punta or punta rock. Punta is mostly performed at holidays, parties, and other social events. Punta is also a dance that accompanies the music, where one couple dances in the center of a circle, and the people surrounding them clap in rhythm. Lyrics are not just limited to Garifuna, but also may be sung in Kriol, English, or Spanish. However, punta rock is almost always sung in Garifuna or Kriol.  Some of the most famous punta rock musicians you’ll run across is Andy Palacio, Mohobub Flores, Pen Cayetano (yeah, the same as the artist), and Paul Nabor. I found Andy Palacio’s album Wátina at the library and listened to it all day in the car on my day off today. I absolutely love it, and my daughter told me that “everyone in the world needs to have a copy of it.” In some songs, it reminds me of the rhythms and harmonies in some of the music from the Cape Verdean musician Cesaria Évora.

Because of its ties and proximity to Jamaica, the influence of reggae and dancehall is also really popular. Some of the more popular dancehall musicians that are listened to in Belize are Vybz Kartel and Mavado (both from Jamaica). I have both in my Spotify playlist for Belize, and I like both. But I’ve been a fan of reggae and dancehall for many years, although these two artists were new names to me. Even though they aren’t exactly from Belize, I included them anyway.

Up next: the food!

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