|Some of the most fascinating and rhythmic music in Central America is found in the Garifuna communities spread along the Caribbean coast of Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. The Garifuna musicians that preserve and create their own distinct music share both a common Awarak-based language and many dances.
Punta is the original dance that expresses a sexual dialogue between male and female dancers who attempt to outdo each other with unique stylized movements. Punta is characterized by rapid shaking of the buttocks and is performed at social gatherings and during all-night wakes. The music involves responsorial singing that is accompanied with drums playing traditional rhythms, calabash rattles and occasionally conch-shell trumpets. Song texts are almost exclusively composed by women, commenting on male infidelity and other unacceptable behavior as well as typical challenges that affect an individual or family.
Punta Rock is the contemporary version of the traditional Punta. The painter and musician Pen Cayetano is considered the founder of Punta Rock in Belize in the early 1980s. He called the music “Punta Rock” because it is faster than the traditional dance-song style. In contrast to the original music, Punta Rock bands include an electric bass guitar, a synthesized keyboard, and a drum machine. Traditionally, Punta Rock songs are composed and performed by men. The movements associated with Punta Rock are provocative adaptations of the traditional Punta dance. Punta Rock is the most popular dance and music in Belize. Although the Garinagu make up less than 7% of Belize’s population Punta Rock has to a large extent become an expression of Belize’s music and dance. Supa G, Lloyd and Reckless, and the Punta Rebels are a few of the modern stars of the genre.
The basic rhythm can be heard in Garifuna traditional drumming styles that harkens back to St. Vincent and West Africa. Paranda itself became a genre in the 19th century, shortly after the Garifuna arrived in Honduras. Here, the Garifuna encountered Latin music, incorporated the acoustic guitar which is how Paranda acquired its touch of Latin and Spanish rhythms. It is performed solely on acoustic instruments, namely the guitar, Garifuna drums, shakers, and turtle shells.
Parandero Paul Nabor, born in 1930, is a living legend and the master of the Paranda musical style. Living in Punta Gorda, a small coastal town in southern Belize, he is one of only a handful of Paranderos alive today. He is also a buyei, a spirit medium and healer who attends to his congregation at a Garifuna temple he built in Punta Gorda. Paul Nabor’s music is recorded on the album Paranda, which showcases an endangered style of music performed by Garifuna men from Honduras, Guatemala and Belize in their 60s, 70s, even up into their 90s.Aurelio Martinez
One of the most extraordinary and passionate Garifuna artists of his generation, Aurelio Martinez, born in 1976, follows in the footsteps of the legendary Paranderos of the Caribbean coast of Central America to become the new voice of Paranda. Acclaimed for both his preservation and modernization of this musical tradition, Aurelio’s virtuosity is found in his distinctive, penetrating vocals and his talent as a composer.
At 43, Andy Palacio is Belize’s top Punta Rock artist. Palacio reworks roots classics in a mixture of Garifuna, Spanish and Creole and sets them to a party, dance-floor tempo. Along with his work as a performing and recording artist he is the director of Belize’s Institute of Creative Arts of the Ministry of Culture.
Pen Cayetano is regarded by many as the “King” of Punta Rock music. He created it in 1980 as a way to revive and preserve Garifuna music amongst the younger generations. Pen Cayetano and the Turtle Shell Band introduced this new genre to the world in 1978, at a club on 5 Moho St., in Dangriga. Pen fused traditional Garifuna instrumentation including the garawon (drum), rattles, and turtle shells with modern electronic instruments. His lasting legacy, however, lies in his lyrics, which gave the political, social and economic issues of the Belizean Garifuna people a global platform, and along the way inspired a new generation to apply their talents to their own ancestral forms and unique concerns.