Music of Belize

Last updated

The music of Belize has a mix of Creole, Mestizo, Garìfuna, Mayan and European influences.


European and African influences

After many centuries of Maya habitation, British colonizers arrived in the area in the 17th century. Belize was Britain's only colony in Spanish-dominated Central America until self-government in 1964 and gaining full Independence in 1981. Belize is still part of the Commonwealth of Nations. Far more influential than this presence, however, was the importation of African slaves.

Europeans brought polkas, waltzes, schottisches and quadrilles, while Africans brought numerous instruments and percussion-based musics, including marimba. [1] [2] African culture resulted in the creation of brukdown music in interior logging camps, played using banjo, guitar, drums, dingaling bell, accordion and an ass' jaw bone played by running a stick up and down the teeth. [2]

Mestizo and Maya music

Maya Mestizo culture in north and west Belize, and also Guatemala, is characterised by marimba, a xylophone-like instrument descended from an African instrument. Marimba bands use drum sets, double bass and sometimes other instruments. Famous performers included Alma Belicena and the Los Angeles Marimba Band. [3] Well known band of Maya Pax music was La Banda de San Jose. [4] One of the popular contemporary marimba bands is the Benque Marimba Youth Academy. [5] In the villages of northern Belize you will also find Maya Pax bands which mostly play for traditional Maya dances like the Hoghead dance like La banda de San Jose in Orange Walk district. [6]

Cumbia music is mostly performed by bands in the northern region of the country where Mestizos and Maya (Yucatec Maya) are abundant.

Kriol music

Among the most popular styles created by Kriol musicians is brukdown. Brukdown evolved out of the music and dance of loggers, especially a form called buru. [7] Buru was often satirical in nature, and eventually grew more urban, accompanied by a donkey's jawbone, drums and a banjo. The word brukdown may come from broken down calypso, referring to the similarities between brukdown and Trinidadian calypso music; the presence of large numbers of Jamaicans in Belize also led to an influence from mento music. [7]

In modern forms, new instruments have been added to brukdown. The "boom and chime groups" use bass guitar, electric guitar and congas, for example. Popular brukdown groups include The Tigers, The Mahogany Chips, Mimi Female Duet and Brad Pattico.

Garifuna music

The Garifuna (also called Garinagu) are descended from escaped Island Caribs who were deported from St. Vincent to Central America (especially Honduras and also Belize) in 1802 by the British when they conquered St. Vincent. The Garifunas kept themselves apart from the social system then dominant, leading to a distinctive culture that developed throughout the 20th century.

Forms of Garifuna folk music and dance encompass many styles including: punta, hungu-hungu, combination, wanaragua, abaimahani, matamuerte, laremuna wadaguman, gunjai, charikanari, sambai, charikanari, eremuna egi, paranda, berusu, punta rock, teremuna ligilisi, arumahani, and Mali-amalihani. Punta and Punta rock are the most popular forms of dance music in Garifuna culture. Punta is performed around holidays and at parties, and other social events. Punta lyrics are usually composed by the women. Chumba and hunguhungu are circular dances in a three beat rhythm, which are often combined with punta. There are other songs typical to each gender, women having eremwu eu and abaimajani, rhythmic a cappella songs, and laremuna wadaguman, men's work songs.

Drums play an important role in Garifuna music. These drums are typically made of hollowed-out hardwood such as mahogany or mayflower, with the skins coming from the peccary (wild bush pig), deer, or sheep. Also used in combination with the drums are the sisera. These shakers are made from the dried fruit of the gourd tree, filled with seeds, then fitted with hardwood handles.

In contemporary Belize there has been a resurgence of Garifuna music, popularized by musicians such as Andy Palacio. [8] These musicians have taken many aspects from traditional Garifuna music forms and fused them with more modern sounds in a style described as a mixture of punta rock and paranda. One great example is Andy Palacio's album Watina released on the Belizean record label "Stone Tree Records."

Modern music

Belize's musical base has expanded considerably in recent years with the addition of local Punta rock reggae, reggaeton, punta, soca, dancehall, hip hop, rock, and metal acts. The latter genre includes musicians like Shyne, Lova Boy, and Ascenthium.

However, despite growing local scenes, modern music from other Caribbean nations (primarily Jamaican dancehall and Trinidadian soca ), as well as commercial pop music from the United States and United Kingdom still remain the most popular genres of music among young Belizeans.

Belizean artists

Notable Belizean artists and performers include:

Related Research Articles

Kalinago Group of people who live in Venezuela and the Lesser Antilles islands

The Kalinago, also known as the Island Caribs or simply Caribs, are an indigenous people of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. They may have been related to the Mainland Caribs (Kalina) of South America, but they spoke an unrelated language known as Island Carib. They also spoke a pidgin language associated with the Mainland Caribs.

Demographics of Belize

This article is about the demographic features of the population of Belize, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

Garifuna Descendants of West African, Central African, Island Carib, and Arawak people

The Garifuna people, are a mixed African and indigenous people who are descended from the Black Caribs, who lived on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent, and speak Garifuna, an Arawakan language.

Garifuna music is an ethnic music and dance with African, Arawak, and Kalinago elements, originating with the Afro-Indigenous Garifuna people from Central America and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In 2001, Garifuna music, dance, and language were collectively proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Central American music

Central America is dominated by the popular Latin music, or Afro-Caribbean trends, including salsa, cumbia, mariachi, reggae, calypso and nueva canción. The countries of Central America have produced their own distinct forms of these genres such as Panamanian salsa, among others. One of the well-known forms of Central American music is punta, a style innovated by the syncretic Garifunas who live across the region, in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize. The marimba, a type of xylophone, is perhaps the most important folk instrument of Central America, and it is widespread throughout the region.

Punta rock

Punta rock or Belizean punta is a form of the traditional punta rhythm of the Garifuna people of Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. Although most artists and bands are exclusively Garifuna, songs are usually in Kriol or Garifuna and rarely in Spanish, or English.

Punta is an Afro-indigenous dance and music originated by the Garifuna people of Saint Vincent (Antilles) with African and Arawak elements.

Andy Palacio Musical artist

Andy Vivian Palacio was a Belizean Punta musician and government official. He was also a leading activist for the Garifuna people and their culture.

Paul Nabor, born Alfonso Palacio, was a Garifuna singer and musician from Punta Gorda, Belize. He is often credited with popularizing paranda, a style of traditional Garifuna music, and is considered to have been one of the most talented musicians of the genre.

Belizean Creoles, also known as Kriols, are Creole descendants of Black Africans, who were enslaved and brought to Belize by English and Scottish log cutters, known as the Baymen. Over the years they have also intermarried with Miskito from Nicaragua, Jamaicans and other Caribbean people, mestizos, pardos, Europeans, Garifunas, Mayas, and Chinese and Indians. The latter were brought to Belize as indentured laborers. These varied peoples have all mixed to create this ethnic group.

Culture of Belize

The culture of Belize is a mix of influences and people from Kriol, Maya, East Indian, Garinagu, Mestizo, Mennonites who are of German descent, with many other cultures from Chinese to Lebanese. It is a unique blend that emerged through the country's long and occasionally violent history.

Delvin "Pen" Cayetano MBE is a Belizean artist and musician.

The Lebeha Drumming Center was established in 2002 by Jabbar Lambey and Dorothy Pettersen, in Hopkins, Belize. Hopkins is a small coastal Garifuna community in the Stann Creek District of southern Belize. The center exists with the goals of keeping Garifuna music alive, passing traditional music along to young people in the community, and sharing music with visitors to Hopkins. The center’s focus is on traditional percussion music, though guitars have been donated and are also played.

Aurelio Martínez Musical artist

Aurelio Martínez, professionally known as Aurelio, is a Honduran musician and politician. He is a singer, percussionist, and guitarist known for his Garifuna music and is considered a Cultural Ambassador of the Garifuna people. According to the Guardian, he became the leading Garifuna performer after the death of musician Andy Palacio.

History of the Catholic Church in Belize

This history of the Catholic church in Belize has three parts: the historical periods of the Catholic presence in Belize, religious congregations laboring in Belize, and apostolic works undertaken.

Rosita Baltazar

Rosita Baltazar was a Belizean choreographer, dancer, dance instructor and founding assistant director of the Belize National Dance Company. In 2004, she was awarded the Lord Rhaburn Music Award as a dance ambassador and in 2009 she received the Chatoyer Recognition Award from the National Garifuna Council of Belize for her efforts at preserving Garifuna culture.

Paranda (music)

Paranda is both a Garifuna rhythm and music with Arawak and African elements which utilizes rhythmic ostinatos in duple meter. Similar to punta, the paranda is a slower rhythm than punta. It's known as the anthem genre of the Garifuna community. and reflects Spanish influences. Traditionally, the guitar is played in paranda and not in punta. and its melodies are soulful lamentations.

Leela Vernon

Leela VernonMBE was a Belizean cultural icon noted for her contributions to preserving Creole culture in the country. She was awarded the title "Queen of Brukdown", received the Order of the British Empire for promoting Creole culture and music, and was named the Brukdown Artist of the Year in 2004. She was honored as National Hero in 2016 by the National Institute of Culture and History.

Sofía Blanco is a Garifuna singer from Guatemala, widely recognized for her talent and efforts to promote the cultural traditions of her people. She has been a featured singer on several albums of Garifuna music, and has toured internationally with the Belizean group Garifuna Collective and Garifuna Women's performance band Umalali, one of the groups selected for performances at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.


  1. Broughton, Simon; Ellingham, Mark, eds. (2000). World Music: The Rough Guide. Latin and North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific. 2. Rough Guides. p. 326. ISBN   1-85828-636-0 via Google Books.
  2. 1 2 Broughton, Simon; Ellingham, Mark, eds. (2000). World Music: The Rough Guide. Latin and North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific. 2. Rough Guides. p. 325. ISBN   1-85828-636-0 via Google Books.
  3. Gordon, Andrew (2017). Agents of Change in Bullet Tree Falls: How a Village in Belize Responded to Influences of Globalization. Cengage Learning. p. 3. ISBN   978-1-133-60449-5 via Google Books.
  4. Maya Pax retrieved 22 July 2021
  5. "The marimba music plays on in Benque Viejo del Carmen". The Guardian (Belize) . January 15, 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  6. Stevenson, Robert; Chamorro, Arturo (2001). "Maya music". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians .
  7. 1 2 Slukich, Patricia (October 28, 2018). "El brukdown: música del Caribe para melómanos". Los Andes (Argentine newspaper) (in Spanish). Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  8. Andy Palacio retrieved 22 July 2021