If you’ve been to Belize you are probably familiar with the diverse cultures and the distinct traditions we passionately embrace as one people.
But what we do find surprising is that the music of Belize, which many inhabitants of this magnificent world come to love and appreciate hasn’t taken the world by storm. Why Belize music is not more popular remains one of life’s great mysteries.
One such culture is the Garifuna, which derived from a cultural mixture of African and Amerindian influences. The Garinagus mainly inhabit southern Belize, wrapped in the embrace of rolling mountains where the songs of the forest are more often interrupted by music than traffic.
So it was good news to hear that the Garifuna Collective was on the road in the US and Canada accompanied by the Primero and Segunda drums, where they’ve been playing to lard sold out venues (check out Belizean TV coverage at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ1sICisv80). The exposure they’re getting on this tour can’t help but to translate into greater awareness of their own unique sound, and Belize’s music in general.
Forgive the evangelical tone, but if you’ve got time some you should search up the song Ayó, which means “goodbye” in Garifuna and is a tribute to the late musical & cultural ambassador for Belize, Andy Palacio. Palacio suddenly passed away in 2008 and left a void many of us still feel today.
“I think we passed that point where we had to show people where on the map we were,” Duran says. “We [are now] developing the music and showing the world it is a very interesting living culture. It may not be your regular pop or reggae music, but for Belize, it’s … not something that you go into the village to hear.”
But even for those who have never heard of Andy and his music, there is something special about this album and the continually evolving Garifuna Collective. As producer and musician Ivan Duran points out in the liner notes:
“We are going back to the core values of the project, which is to present Garifuna music to the world, not in a traditional way, not in a museum, but as a living musical form. With Ayó you feel that spirit of being in the village with everybody singing along, everybody being a part of a song, not following a single singer or star. This album sounds like it was made by a band; there’s a group spirit that comes across more clearly than ever before.”
Like all great music, it is spirit without borders. Little wonder these rhythms emanating from small settlements along Belize’s Caribbean coastline have the power to move large crowds in Europe, North America and throughout the world.
And while we’re not usually in the business of plugging albums or artists, it should be pointed out that organizing a tour and getting a band like the Garifuna Collective on the road requires an almost superhuman effort. In addition to the many musicians, singers and crew there’s the large Garifuna drums as the rhythmic Primero and Segunda and other specialized gear (have you ever tried to get turtle shell percussion instrument though US customs?) so essential to the sound.
The 2013 tour finds the Collective traveling the world again, without a frontman.
“To me, it’s a much more beautiful thing because … this culture was built on community,” Duran says.
Long live Belize and its cultural & musical ambassadors!!