The Belize Sound
by Katia Paradis
For all these reasons, listening to some Belizean music is a great way to get to know the country even before you visit. Download a few Belizean albums to listen to while you pack for your adventure and get a sense of the melodies, the rhythms and the history of this unique destination.
Get familiar with Brokdong music, a joyful melange of accordion, banjo, guitar, grater (yes, the kitchen utensil) and even the rattling sound of the jawbone of an ass. This vanishing style of music, more than any other, characterizes the Kriol culture. The music of the late Mr. Peters and his Boom and Chime Band is key in understanding the contagious Belizean sense of humour.
Travel into the lush tropical jungle lands of southern Belize, where Florencio Mess and the Maya-Q’eqchi’ people still handcraft their traditional harps, guitars and violins. Using fishing line as strings, they patiently tune their instruments until they sound just right.
Two centuries ago, back when Belize was known as British Honduras, the musical landscape of the country changed forever with the arrival of the drumming, dancing and singing of the Garinagu people. Today, the Garinagu are resolute in maintaining their cultural heritage both in their communities along Belize’s coast and at major global music festivals. One of the most captivating styles is the paranda, a melancholic Afro-Latin blend.
Right after Belize gained independence, a new style instantly fired up the dance halls across the country: the up-tempo punta rock music. A great number of dynamic performers contributed to consolidate this musical identity and turned the whole country into a single gyrating hip in the 1990s.
Add to these music styles the sunny tones of the marimba (a traditional wooden xylophone of the Maya-Mestizo of Western Belize); the West African beats of samba on the Gales Point Peninsula; the steel pan bands; the Belizean calypso of Gerald “Lord” Rhaburn; the legacy of the British colonial music—it’s not surprising that Belize’s music is as colourful and diverse as its landscape. Music is the best shortcut to get in sync with the heart and soul of Belize. And don’t forget to take some Belizean vibes back home with you…dancing punta will definitely warm you up on those chilly winter nights.
Katia Paradis directs and produces video documentaries. Her documentary “Three Kings of Belize” is an award winning portrait of three of Belize’s musical pioneers.
Instrumental Maya strings music: Florencio Mess and the Maya-Q’eqchi’ Strings
Garifuna music (Paranda style): Paul Nabor (Naguya Nei)
Punta Rock : Mohobub Flores
New Garifuna music: Watina, Andy Palacio (Lidan Aban)