Garifuna Spirituality and Religion

Garifuna spirituality and religion are a blend of the rituals and beliefs of Arawak, Island Caribs and West African beliefs and culture.   All of these cultures have a strong belief in ancestral spirits and their influence on those who are living.  By acknowledging these spirits through different ceremonies, they would bless their family members and ensure continued well-being.  Over time Garifuna spirituality and religion has developed to be an integral part of the Garifuna culture.  The most common Garifuna ceremonies are as follows:

  • Garifuna Beluria (ninth night)
  • Dugu
  • Chugu

The Dugu and Chugu ceremonies take place exclusively within the Garifuna temple, the Dabuyaba under the direction of a Buyei (shaman).  All Garifuna rituals and ceremonies include abundant drumming, dancing and singing.

Unfortunately Garifuna spirituality and religion are under threat.  Many Garifuna people are also loyal Catholics, with drumming and Garifuna hymns often sung in charge.  But the encroachment of pentecostal churches into Central America has contributed to a recent rise in public derision of Garifuna spirituality.  It has become common for those Garifuna people who attend Dugu and Chugu ceremonies to be accused of devil worship.  Those who make these accusations have clearly never attended a Dugu or Chugu.  In reality, these ceremonies are constantly thanking God.  This new attack on Garifuna culture is worrying.  When the Garifuna people first arrived in Belize the British would tell their African and Creole slaves that the Garifuna people were cannibals and devil worshippers.  These new attacks threaten to reignite religious and ethnic divisions.  As many drum rhythms and songs are exclusively used in the temple, they also threaten much of Garifuna culture itself.

Garifuna spirituality and religion

Garifuna temple in Barranco

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The Garifuna flag

The Garifuna flag is universally agreed to consist of three horizontal stripes of black, white and yellow.  The meanings of these colors and the order of the stripes is debated however.

Garifuna flag

Ray’s first drum – decorated with a scene of the Re-Enactment and featuring the Garifuna Flag. This drum is now in the British Museum, London.

The white stripe is always seen in the middle.  But sometimes the yellow is seen at the top (as in our logo), and sometimes the black is seen at the top.  The National Garifuna Council website in Belize says that the black goes at the top, but still often flags are seen with the opposite order.  Some flags also include a central emblem showing three people.  One in a boat in the background and two in the foreground around a basket of food.

The meanings of the three colors are often described as follows:

Black: Represents the color of the skin and the African ancestry of the Garifuna people.  Also represents the suffering and hardship that they suffered.

White: Represents the white skin of the Europeans who were the historical antagonists of the Garifuna people.  It also represents the peace that the Garifuna people ultimately sought.

Yellow: Represents the color of the Garifuna people’s staple food – grated cassava and cassava bread.  It is also said to represent the Amerindian (Carib and Arawak) ancestry of the Garifuna.  Finally, it is said to symbolize hope.

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Malate Isien (Worthless Love)

Malate Isien is one of the most popular traditional Garifuna songs.  It is a catchy Paranda song, and as with many Garifuna songs, it relates to daily life.  In this case, it is giving advice about love.   It was originally written by Bernard “Gabaga” Williams.  Our group also regularly perform this song.

Malate Isien

There are various recordings of the track, and some feature only one or two of the verses.  Likewise in some live performances only one or two of the verses are sung.  Hopefully by documenting more of the known verses we can encourage groups to sing the entire song.

We have included English translation for the Chorus and two of the verses so far.  We will update with the translation of the last two verses when we have it finished – or if any of our Garifuna readers would like to contribute translations, then feel free to comment!

You can purchase this song (sung by Dale Guzman) and more from Stonetree Records, or if you have Spotify access, listen here.

Malate Isien (Worthless Love)

Madayagua harabana luagu tirau noufuri (Sing 2 times) (They have ganged up on my aunt’s daughter)
(Following 3 lines are sung 3 times)
Mabarase ba gia hau, mabarase ba gia hau (Don’t worry about them)
Luagu halugun heiginibu (How they tried to eat you alive)
Laduga heigadi gurigia  (For their love of human flesh)

Chorus (Sing 2 times)
Malati isien ganeiwa ruguti (Love that is bought is worthless)
Michiga ba purisima dan le misien ba (Don’t extend a greeting where you are not loved)
Malati isien ganeiwa ruguti (Love that is bought is worthless)
Malati dan le misien ba  (It is useless when you are not loved)

Gundabadina luni latigirunina mutu luagu niduun aü (sing two times) (I would gladly agree to be hanged for a crime I have committed)
(Repeat following 2 lines x 2 times)
Buguya haruguti buguya hebenene (You are their grandfather you are their godfather)
Buma hafureindera ligia lagarida bun aü (They learned from you now it hurts you)

Chorus (Sing 2 times)
Malati isien ganeiwa ruguti (Love that is bought is worthless)
Michiga ba purisima dan le misien ba (Don’t extend a greeting where you are not loved)
Malati isien ganeiwa ruguti (Love that is bought is worthless)
Malati dan le misien ba  (It is useless when you are not loved)

Au gufuruma badina luni hahuluchunina mutu luagu niduru (sing 2 times)
(Repeat following 3 lines x 2 times)
Amuru haruguti, amuru hebenene
Buma hafurendera iweru
Larigien tagarida bun

Chorus (Sing 2 times)
Malati isien ganeiwa ruguti (Love that is bought is worthless)
Michiga ba purisima dan le misien ba (Don’t extend a greeting where you are not loved)
Malati isien ganeiwa ruguti (Love that is bought is worthless)
Malati dan le misien ba  (It is useless when you are not loved)

Numada rau wau mamada ba ya ubowagu
Tueidugien buguchu luma buguchili
Hagia rugubana bumadagu ubowagu
Ibidie bei mutu le lun bei lagumuchu bau

Chorus (Sing 2 times)
Malati isien ganeiwa ruguti (Love that is bought is worthless)
Michiga ba purisima dan le misien ba (Don’t extend a greeting where you are not loved)
Malati isien ganeiwa ruguti (Love that is bought is worthless)
Malati dan le misien ba  (It is useless when you are not loved)

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Contact Warasa

Contact Warasa

Warasa Garifuna Drum School, Saint Vincent Garifuna Block, New Road, Punta Gorda, Toledo, Belize.

Phone: +501 632 7701

If you prefer you can email us the “regular” way at warasadrumschool@gmail.com or use WhatsApp (+501 632 7701) or Facebook Page Messenger

Contact Warasa

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About Warasa Garifuna Drum School

About Warasa Garifuna Drum School

About Warasa Garifuna Drum School

About Ray

Warasa Garifuna Drum School is the dream of its founder and master drummer and teacher, Ronald Raymond McDonald.

Ronald, or Ray, learned drums by watching his family group from childhood. He is a former drummer, dancer and singer for the Belize National Dance Company. He has performed all over Belize and much of Central America.

About Warasa Garifuna Drum School

Ray is passionate about his culture, and for many years his dream was to start a drumming schoool and teach others about his culture.

With the help of his wife Ruth, Warasa (which means “our culture”), was begun in 2010.  The School has grown from borrowed drums and a rented house, to more than 20 of our own drums at our beautiful thatch palapa.

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Garifuna Drum-Making

Garifuna drum-making lessons at Warasa show you the basics of making a Garifuna drum. Chisel, plane and sand a solid log into shape.  Prepare the deerskin hide and fix it to the drum using jungle vines.  Make the natural wood pins to tighten the ropes and add the bass or snare wires.

Garifuna drum-making 11787310_10152966884786828_394851094_n

It is an intensive and time-consuming process to make a drum from start to finish.  Book a longer lesson if you want to learn more of the steps.

1005291_589282644466036_1265463871_nWe will show you how it is done the traditional way and the modern way.  Prepare yourself to use or watch your teacher using power tools and get dusty!   You can simply watch or get hands-on.

Prices per person:

1-4 people: $25USD/$50Bz per person

5-10 people: $20USD/$40Bz per person

 

 

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Garifuna Culture Activity Packages

Garifuna Culture Activity Packages

Garifuna Culture Activity Packages

Half-Day Packages

We offer a variety of flexible half-day packages, with the option to include a traditional Garifuna meal of fresh fish fillet sauteed in mildly spiced coconut milk served with mashed plantain (known as “hudut” in Garifuna). Minimum 2 people.

Select any three activities from the list below to make up your half-day package:
1:   1 hour interactive Garifuna drumming lesson
2:   1 hour interactive drum-making lesson/demonstration
3:   30 minute traditional Garifuna drum group performance featuring 4-member band
4:   1 hour traditional Garifuna dancing lesson
Cost per person:
For groups of 2-3: $125Bz (without meal); $140Bz (with meal)
For groups of 4+ people: $115Bz (without meal); $125Bz (with meal)

 

Whole-Day Garifuna Culture Packages

For those of you who really want to delve deeper into Garifuna culture and try your hands at a bit of everything, we also offer three different whole day package options.  Please note all packages are for a minimum of three people.
Option 1 (Drum-Making, Drumming & Dancing): $180Bz per person inc lunch – min. 3 people
  • 10am-12n: Drum-making lesson  (chiselling, sanding, planning logs, tightening skins, etc.)
  • 12n-1pm: Traditional “hudut” lunch with fish fillet and juice or soda
  • 1pm-2:30pm: 1 1/2 hr interactive Garifuna drumming lesson
  • 2:30-3.15pm: 45 minute group performance (4-member group)
  • 3:15 – 4pm: 45 minute dancing lesson with group accompaniment

 

Option 2 (Cooking, Drumming & Dancing): $200Bz per person inc. lunch – min. 3 people
  • 10am-12n: “Hudut” cooking lesson
  • 12n-1pm: Enjoy the hudut lunch you just made with some fresh juice.
  • 1pm-2:30pm: 1 1/2 hr interactive Garifuna drumming lesson
  • 2:30-3.15pm: 45 minute group performance (4-member group)
  • 3:15 – 4pm: 45 minute dancing lesson with group accompaniment

Option 3 (Garifuna Extravaganza – Cooking, Drum-Making, Drumming & Dancing): $200Bz per person inc. lunch – min. 3 people

  • 10am-12n: “Hudut” cooking lesson
  • 12n-1pm: Enjoy the hudut lunch you just made with some fresh juice.
  • 1pm-2pm:Drum-making lesson
  • 2pm-3pm: 1 hr interactive Garifuna drumming lesson
  • 3-3:30pm: 30 minute group performance (4-member group)
  • 3:30 – 4pm: 30 minute dancing lesson with group accompaniment


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Garifuna Cultural Activities in Belize

Garifuna cultural activities at Warasa appeal to a wide range of guests.   From interactive drumming, dancing or drum-making lessons, to simply sitting back and enjoying a traditional performance, we can arrange it all! You can book your activity on our Reservation page or on the individual activity pages linked below.  If you have any problems booking through our website, email us or call us on +501 632 7701.

Garifuna cultural activities

Enjoy an authentic, interactive drumming lesson as Ray sings and plays along with you.  Get stuck in with a drum-making session.   Learn the traditional and modern ways of making our drums using solid wood logs, jungle vines, deerskin.  Learn about the plants and seeds used to make our maracas.  Move your hips and learn the traditional Garifuna dances.  Learn to make the traditional Garifuna lunch of “hudut”.  Or, just sit back and enjoy a traditional meal and professional group performance.

Warasa and more

As well as enjoying all these activities at Warasa, you can immerse yourself even more.  Join in on Settlement Day activities in all Garifuna communities or the annual Battle of the Drums activities every November in Punta Gorda.

 

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Garifuna Music

 Garifuna music

Music is an integral part of Garifuna culture.  Garifuna music is very distinct from the other styles of music found in Central and Latin America.  The Garinagu integrate song and music into all aspects of their life.  Therefore many songs are about activities like fishing or cooking or giving advice to a loved one.

Traditional Garifuna music is based on a small number of basic rhythms.  These are Paranda, Punta, Chumba, Hungu-Hungu, Wanaragua (also known as Jonkanu), Gunjei, and Dugu.  Dugu is a sacred rhythm that is only played in the Temple.   Shakas (maracas), turtle shells, conch shell (for a horn), guitar (in Paranda) and other percussion are also commonly used.

Garifuna Musicians

Well-known traditional Garifuna musicians include Paul Nabor and Aurelio Martinez (Paranda), Andy Palacio and Adrian “Doc” Martinez.

Punta Rock is the contemporary version of the traditional Punta.  In contrast to the original music, Punta Rock bands include an electric bass guitar, a synthesized keyboard, and a drum machine.  Well-known Punta Rock musicians include Supa G, Aziatic and Lova Boy.

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Garifuna People (Garinagu)

Garifuna People (Garinagu) descend from shipwrecked Africans who mixed with Carib and Arawak Amerindians on the island of Saint Vincent.

 Garifuna People (Garinagu)
Around 1635, some slave ships from the west coast of Africa were wrecked near the coast of Saint Vincent in the Caribbean.  The slaves who survived mixed with the descendants of Arawak and Carib Amerindians already living on the island.

The dark skin and culture of the Africans mixed with the language and culture of the Carib Indians.  This created a rich new ethnicity and culture, now known as Garifuna.

The French and British colonists battled for control of St. Vincent in the 18th century. The Garifuna sided with the French.  But in 1795, the British defeated the French, and expelled all Garifuna people from the island.

Garifuna families set off across the Caribbean in small wooden canoes carrying important crops with them to plant wherever they settled.  Half died before reaching land and safety.  Those that survived, settled along the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize.

Garifuna Language and Songs

Today, Garifuna language blends Arawak, English, Spanish, French and west African languages.  ‘Garifuna’ describes the culture and language, but use the word ‘Garinagu” to describe the people as a whole.  Music, singing, drumming and dancing are integral parts of Garifuna culture.  Many of the songs and dances tell stories about Garifuna history and culture.

Garifuna Settlement Day

Every year on the 19th of November, Garifuna people in Belize celebrate the arrival of the Garinagu people in Belize.  Drumming and dancing continues through the night.  By sunrise, boats arrive to re-enact the arrival of their ancestors to Belize.  The arrival of the boats is celebrated by those onshore with drumming and dancing.  A parade then takes place through town ending at the Catholic church.  Celebrate with us if you visit in November!

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