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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Dügü – Garifuna Spirituality

Barranco Dabuyaba

Here is a wonderful first-hand narrative of one women’s experience of Garifuna spirtuality in 1996 taken from http://judylumb.com/dugu.html.

An Extended Family Reunion

I was honoured to be invited to a Garifuna dügü by my friend, Sebastian Cayetano (Sab), because it is a private family affair, not a cultural event to which the public is invited. In casual conversations, the Garinagu translate the word “dügü” into English as “family reunion.” Indeed, families gather together, but not only the living relatives, the spirits of ancestors also attend. I have also heard it compared to our Thanksgiving. It is true that a feast is prepared, but it is done for the ancestors.

The Garinagu believe that unhappy ancestral spirits cause bad things to happen to people, such as making them sick, to get their attention. The purpose of the dügü is to appease the ancestors, to make them happy, and to heal the living of illnesses and other adversities.

This particular dügü had been long delayed. Twenty years ago Marcello Cayetano, Sab’s great-grandfather appeared to Sab’s father asking for a lesser ceremony, a Garifuna Mass. But Sab’s father was a well-trained Roman Catholic teacher and had left the Garifuna traditions behind, so the request was ignored.

Then two years ago things began happening in the Cayetano family. Sab’s identical twin brother, Fabian (Fab), had a serious accident, but he recovered completely. A niece was run over by a truck, but was not hurt badly. At another dügü Sab was asked to hold a dügü for Marcello Cayetano and his wife, Loretta Palacio Cayetano. Loretta Palacio was born in 1860, the first child born in Barranco and the granddaughter of the mother of Barranco, Magaruda, who had come to live there with her two sons.

Sab knew a dügü would be a tremendous effort for the entire family, but Fab was in Jamaica finishing a degree that year. Sab accepted the challenge to plan a dügü, but negotiated a two-year delay so they would have time to prepare after Fab returned. That was acceptable to the spirits, so no more bad things happened to the family.

Indeed, preparing for the dügü was a huge job. They had to build a temple (dabuyaba) in Barranco because there was none. The dabuyaba was built to face east, with doors in the north and south. At the closed west end was the priest’s inner sanctum (dugeirugu) where the family retired whenever anything important was happening.

In addition to the dabuyaba, they also built a kitchen, a family house and a shed for the pigs, all made of natural materials with a dirt floor and thatch roof. They are located on the cliff overlooking the black sand beach with a view of the Bay of Honduras and the mountains of Guatemala and Honduras.

They also had to arrange for all the food. Cassava had to be planted and grown. Pigs and roosters had to be raised. The family members were assessed to cover the cost, a total of $40,000 BZ.

All 250 participants had two outfits made, one in green check for the Cayetanos and one in bright orange for the Palacios. All the descendants of Marcello and Loretta are both Cayetano and Palacio, so on Thursday everyone wore green check and on Friday the orange. The costumes were beautiful full skirts with coordinated blouses. The men wore dashikis of the same fabric.

The dügü was conducted by a traditional Garifuna priest (buyei) and his entourage from Livingston, Guatemala. Buyeinu (plural of buyei) are identified very early in life and serve as both priest and healer. The buyei was Esteban Palacio, one of the descendants of Marcello and Loretta. The entourage included a second buyei, a messenger, three drummers, eight singers, two shaka (sisira) players, and three cooks. The messenger was not a buyei, but had many functions in the dügü. He kept an eye out for the appearance of ancestral spirits, kept the copal burning, and carried messages to the buyeinu from the spirits.

One unusual thing about this dügü was the marriage of the Garifuna with the Catholic tradition. Sab and Fab are both lay leaders in the Catholic church and also very active in the movement to preserve and celebrate the traditional Garifuna culture. They have a brother who is a Catholic priest, Father Cal.

Twenty years ago, when Marcello first asked for a Mass, Father Cal was a newly ordained priest, fully steeped in the Jesuit tradition and did not believe in the traditional Garifuna religion. He was injured in a car accident and only recovered after a long period of time.

About that time Father Richard Hadel, a Jesuit priest who was an anthropologist, did his research in Belize and attended several dügüs. He convinced the Jesuits to soften their position. Father Cal described his own return to the Garifuna tradition, saying that Sab was always inviting him along for Garifuna events, so he has gradually gotten involved. He now believes his accident twenty years ago was caused by the ancestors whose request was ignored.

The dügü began with a Mass on Sunday night when the temple was blessed, both by the buyei and by Father Cal. The buyei dug a hole in the center of the temple, poured rum and then covered it up again. This became the point of power in the dabuyaba. Father Cal sprinkled holy water all around. Copal was burned at all times in the temple. Usually it was in the center, but sometimes the messenger smoked all the corners of the temple, too. Once the dabuyaba was blessed, everything brought in was blessed, like the luggage belonging to the people coming from out of town, who would be sleeping in the dabuyaba. Everything was placed in the center of the dabuyaba and blessed by the buyei by blowing smoke from a big hand-rolled cigar.

Termite nests were burned, too. They make a heavy smoke with a strange, but not unpleasant smell. I was told that the burning of termite nests keeps away the evil spirits.

Rum was used only for anointing people. It was never drunk. I was anointed several times with rum. If someone seemed to be in trouble with a trance, they were sprinkled with strong rum to bring them out of it.

There were a number of prohibitions. No one was allowed to come into the dabuyaba if they had been drinking alcohol of any kind. The drummers were required to abstain from sexual activity. No menstruating woman was to come into the temple. It was considered a desecration. Sab said that if one were to come, she would be embarrassed because the spirits would know and publicly chastise her.

The central event of the dügü is a feast for the ancestors. A group of people representing the family, called “adugahatiun,” went out to the cayes to gather fish, crabs and conch for the feast. Monday morning they were sent off in a beautiful ceremony, starting with a Mass in the dabuyaba. All the items that were to be taken out to the cayes, down to the motor oil, were blessed. Then the drumming and dancing started and the entire crowd, led by two women carrying flags, the solid orange for Palacio and the green check for Cayetano processed along the cliff and down to the beach. It was beautiful in the early morning light as everyone helped the four men and four women get the dories loaded and head out to the cayes.

Meanwhile in the dabuyaba there was quiet singing, some drumming, and a little dancing. Each day began with a Mass and all prayed that the dügü would be successful. One afternoon the entire congregation walked reverently around the village singing hymns and praying as they went. I fasted during that time, my own spiritual practice.

By Wednesday night the excitement was building. During the dancing I saw my first spirit possession, “onwehani” in Garifuna. “Onweha” is the verb meaning to go into a trance and act as a medium for an ancestral spirit. There were several onwehani that night. The singers are mediums for spirits who were buyeinu during their lifetimes. The lead singer’s spirit had much to say. I saw her speaking to several people who were listening respectfully and nodding to indicate they had received the message.

One young woman onweha right in front of me, but she did not say anything. There was another woman who fainted often and fell on the person nearest her, but she never talked either. Everyone just supported her and continued dancing, usually with her behind them, arms around their neck.

I wondered if my ancestors could hear these drums. I thought of my grandmother’s great-grandmother, Grandma Hollenbeck. I finished a quilt that she started, one I called the “six-generation quilt.” I was told that she owned a shop and smoked a pipe. The next night we were all warned that there was smoke in the corner where I was sitting. Everyone vacated that corner and my attention was drawn elsewhere for a time. When I looked back to the empty corner, there was a woman smoking a pipe and looking straight at me, legs spread apart, one hand on her hip and one on the pipe. It was just the way I imagined Grandma Hollenbeck. But the tobacco she was smoking was so strong, so awful smelling, that I immediately got sick and had to leave. Still, I was impressed. I got exactly what I asked for, a sign that I was participating at a real level in this dügü.

The return of the adugahatiun from the Cayes was like the send-off in reverse. The day began with a Mass in the church. Then everyone went to the seaside to watch the dories return. In the stillness of the early morning they paddled in, each showing a flag, one the Cayetano green check and the other the solid orange for the Palacios. As they got close, everyone waded out to greet them and unload the fish, crabs and conch. To the beat of the drum and the sisira, the entire group, all in green-checked costumes, danced up the cliff to the dabuyaba.

The most powerful part of the dügü was the mali, the opening to the four cardinal directions. The whole group faced each direction, beginning with the west, and the drums played a slower, deeper beat. The singing stopped, but the sisira continued slowly and deliberately. As one, the whole group began to very reverently lean down toward the ground. The space from the center to the door was cleared and the buyei probed the ground with his wand, backed up by the singers and the drummers with the entire crowd behind.

Then suddenly the beat speeded up, the singing resumed and the whole group raised up to move to the next cardinal direction. Malis invited the spirits into the dabuyaba several times during the day and night for the rest of the dügü. The first mali took about 30 minutes, but they got longer and even more powerful as the dügü progressed.

On Thursday the preparations for the feast continued from the time the dories were unloaded and the procession brought everything to the dabuyaba. Two pigs were killed and dressed. The two carcasses were hung at the north and south doors to the dabuyaba for some time.

Everyone was asked to bring a rooster as a gift for the feast. All these roosters were tied to posts in the dabuyaba, so their “cock-a-doodle-doo” was a constant sound throughout the dügü. Occasionally two of them would get into a fight and have to be separated. There was one dance in which everyone held roosters by their two wings, casually down at their sides. The roosters were presented at the altar in the dugeirugu. Then they were killed one by one in the front of the temple with a very dramatic chop.
On Friday a 30-foot banquet table was placed in the middle of the dabuyaba. The cooks came in with the prepared food and filled everyone’s plates. Each person reverently placed their plate on the table and prayed silently that the ancestors would enjoy their feast. They also brought soft drinks, opened and stoppered with cotton. The food was left out for several hours for the ancestors to eat.

Banana leaves were spread on the ground with some food from the table. All the children encircled the leaves and, at a signal, they went for the food. Some of the food was buried; some was dumped at sea and some was distributed. No other food was cooked that day. Everyone was supposed to join the ancestors in their feast. Several people asked me about our Thanksgiving, wondering if it was the same as this. I said that families gather and a feast is prepared and eaten, but Thanksgiving has no spiritual depth, no drums, no dancing.

The marriage between the Catholic and the traditional Garifuna was always evident. Father Cal was always there dancing. Each day began with a Mass and there was often another one later in the day. The most beautiful symbol of the integration of the two traditions was when three young men were baptized in an evening Mass in the dabuyaba. Their parents had waited to let them make their own decisions, so this was their choice, to embrace both traditions and be baptized at a Catholic Mass during a dügü in a dabuyaba.

The dancing and malis continued day and night with only an occasional rest break. The hypnotic drum beat, the shushing of the sisiras, and the chanting of the singers accompanied the continuous shuffling dance flowing around the center of the dabuyaba and then reversing direction. Sometimes they danced one by one; sometimes two or more together, but always they danced.

On Thursday night a woman dressed as a man in khaki pants and shirt, a red bandanna, and a huge sombrero appeared carrying a machete. It turned out to be Sinerial, a spirit who comes often to dügüs through Sab’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Martinez. After she goes into trance, Sinerial demands these particular clothes, so she brings them along.

Sinerial was like a drill sergeant, ordering people around and chasing them with his machete. I took his picture with a flash and he turned to glare at me. He split the crowd into two halves with a big gap down the middle, and ordered the drummers to play a different rhythm, a punta. He said he wanted to dance. He grabbed Sab on one side, Fab on the other and promenaded them up and down. Then he added their children to the promenade. Later he settled down to lecture the crowd. He said there should be no more electronics in the dabuyaba for the rest of the dügü. I obeyed and left my camera at home.

There were other onwehani. Sometimes they screamed, sometimes they just slumped. I was told that if the spirit comes from the front, you see it coming and that is when people scream. Otherwise, they just faint. Soon they would begin talking in a different voice. Afterward, they remember nothing of the experience.
I saw someone onweha in front of me. I thought at first it was Ms. Petty, my friend from Caye Caulker, but it was her sister, Josephine, and she was speaking for their grandfather. That morning their brother, Augustine, was heard screaming and then found lying on the ground. They took him to the temple and he came around, but he did not know what had happened. Later, when the grandfather came, he said that he had done that to Augustine. He chastised Augustine about leading a wild life.

Friday morning Josephine’s daughter, Jocelyn, onweha and spoke for Mimi, Ms. Petty’s grandmother. Mimi was vexed. She wanted her pipe and said she would not eat the feast until after she smoked. Sinerio had warned them the night before, “your grandmother is coming and she will want her pipe, so you had better get ready.”

But they ignored it. So, Ms. Petty had to go running all around trying to find a pipe. She first got one from the woman who had been impersonating my grandmother’s great-grandmother, but Mimi rejected it, saying it was not nice. They finally found another one which she smoked. I was sitting with the older generation that day. Several of them had known Mimi when they were children. They said she was just like that. They remembered being sent for her pipe so she could smoke.

It is easy to believe in ancestral spirits. They all had ways to prove who they were, like Mimi’s pipe and Sinerio’s strict manner. Besides, we all want to think that our loved ones live on in spirit after they have died.

The last night I went home after the midnight chicken soup, leftovers from the feast for the ancestors. I fell sound asleep for the first time since the dügü started. Then I woke up feeling this smooth, cool sensation all over my skin. It felt like chills, but I was not shaking. At first I was afraid, thinking I might be going into anaphylactic shock or something. Then I wondered if I was going to onweha. I wanted to see what would happen, so I stayed perfectly still. But nothing more happened. The smooth, cool feeling just continued. When I first woke up, I thought I was sleeping in the temple, near the east door because I could hear a murmur of voices coming from the next room, which I thought was the hammock shed outside the temple. But I knew I was in our bedroom and only my friend Debra was asleep in the hammock next door. I went to the door and saw a ghostly woman sitting in a chair who looked like Ms. Petty praying, a very comforting sight for me. All around the room were puffs of smoke and murmuring voices.

The next night I kept waking up thinking I was in the hammock shed and hearing the murmuring voices. After I was awake, I knew where I was, but whenever I drifted off again, the voices would come back. Sab’s sister, Fatima was quite concerned about my spirits. She boiled a leaf and brought the hot water for my bath. She put copal smoke in my room so the spirits would leave me alone. It worked! From then I slept soundly.

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Small Business Struggles in Belize

NOTICE: I have amended this from the original post, as the issue has been resolved honourably with the Facebook page in question.  However I think it is good to leave it up in some form, so that people become more aware of copyright laws and intellectual property rights.

I have previously written about some of the challenges of managing a business in Belize…well let’s just say the struggles continue!

There is of course the expected challenges of others thinking that we are making Big Bucks (oh if only…we barely break even!) and therefore also starting to offer Garifuna drumming lessons and related.  I’m sure they will quickly realise it’s not a booming business, but we hold no hard feelings…everyone is simply trying to make a living in a small town with few opportunities.

But today, I became very upset after finding out that one of our designs, which is used in our logo on our business cards, website, tshirts and more, had been taken and used on Tshirts by another organisation and Facebook Page.

Now here are our original designs, that were constructed from a full colour photo of Mario McDonald’s (my father-in-law’s) mahogany primero and segunda drums, that I then converted into black and white, edited in various ways to improve the look, posterised, and added the white outline to make it “pop” more.  I.e. it is no longer just a photo.  This (for a novice like me at least) was not easy, and very time consuming!

twodrumsmonochromecopyright


blackwhitedrum_copyright

businesscardfrontjpg_copyright

Sadly, the Facebook page in question chose the black and white image of the primero and segunda to use on t-shirts they were printing and selling in celebration of November 19th 2015.

They did not ask, and our business name was taken off the image and mentioned nowhere on the t-shirts or in any of the Facebook posts: we would have gained no exposure or marketing from the t-shirts.  At first, they refused to take the images down, seemed to find our concerns amusing, and continued to share the photos of the t-shirts despite our requests to take them down.

This is a page, that up until this time, I had considered supporters of Warasa.  They had about a year or more ago, asked if they could share some of our photos on their page if they credited us, and we gave permission.  They claimed that they did not know the image belonged to us.  Now even if that were true, it is no defense.  It is common knowledge that you can’t simply use a design without first checking who it belongs to, and asking permission.

For those that are not aware: Copyright is automatic – you do not have to register it.  

In the end, the page in question did the honourable thing and did as we requested from the start, which was to:

  1. Issue a public apology for using our design without permission on their FB page
  2. Remove all photos that include our design/products that use our design
  3. Cease production and distribution/sale of all tshirts and other merchandise that include our design
  4. Advise everyone that already received a tshirt that it is not their design, but is in fact that of Warasa Garifuna Drum School

Quite a few professional photographers also messaged me to tell me their photos had also been used by the page, with their name/watermark on the bottom of it removed and replaced by the page’s own logo/watermark.  So it seems indeed they didn’t understand the concept of artistic intellectual property.  I think this was a harsh and upsetting lesson for both parties.

For the small number of people who are trying to make this somehow about me not being a born Belizean and/or not being Garifuna, then you have clearly never met me.  Garifuna drums and music belong to the Garinagu people.  But this particular image of Garifuna drums belongs to Warasa, the same way that PG town belongs to all its residents, but a photo of PG town belongs to the photographer.

Thank you as always for your support…

www.warasadrumschool.com

www.facebook.com/warasadrumschool

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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 Drums

Garifuna Drums

886745_642546015806365_721270680_oGarifuna drums are made by hollowing out solid trunks of hardwood, and are hence genuine solid wood drums.  The hollow is traditionally started by burning hot coals in the centre of the trunk, but these days, unless some termites have chewed out a hollow for us, it is often started with the help of a chainsaw!

Once a rough hollow is made, a long chisel is used to chisel the log into a cylinder, and is then planed and sanded smooth.  Holes are drilled around the bottom of the cylinder for the ropes to pass through when it is time to add the skin.

Deer skin is the most commonly used skin, and it must be soaked, the hair scraped off, and then rinsed, before being cut to the correct size.  Natural vines (called teetay in Belize) are used to create two rings that fit snugly over the top of the drum cylinder: these rings are what holds the skin in place with the aid of the rope.  When they are cut from the jungle, the vines are very flexible, but they become rigid after a few hours, so the rings must be formed to the correct shape and size soon after they are cut.

The rope is one single length that is threaded through the holes around the bottom of the drum and then through the upper ring which pulls down on the skin.  The rope is tightened by turning hand-carved wooden pins, which causes the skin to be pulled taut.

The skin is still wet when it is first fixed to the drum, but the drum with its skin must then be left in the hot sun in order for it to dry.  Once it is totally dry, the top side of the skin is then sanded smooth while still on the drum.  The rope is then adjusted and the pins tightened again.

Once the skin is tight enough, the snare strings or wire are added.  For the Segunda drum, string is used to make a double snare wire; for Primero, the McDonald family like to use a few strands the wire from inside a bicycle brake wire cable, as it is strong and does not rust.  Wire produces a harder sound than string, and better suits the Primero drum than string.

The cylinder of a Garifuna drum can last decades if looked after and varnished regularly, but the skin must occasionally be replaced. Ray’s father, Mario, has had the same mahogany Segunda and Primero drums for over 40 years!

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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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Garifuna Culture

Garifuna culture unites Garinagu people in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and also those who now live in other countries including the United States.

In 2008 the Garifuna language, music and song were inscribed as part of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO (UNESCO – Intangible Heritage of the Garifuna)

Origin of the Garifuna Culture and People

Garifuna cultureIn the 18th century slave ships from western Africa became shipwrecked near the island of Saint Vincent in the Caribbean.  Several hundreds of slaves that escaped and made it to shore settled on the island.  Already living there at that time were Carib and Arawak Amerindians (originally from South America). The African settlers intermarried with the inhabitants of Saint Vincent.  This created a new ethnic group that became known as the Garinagu (in the past also know as the Black Caribs).  The culture of the African settlers combined with the language and culture of the Carib and Arawak into this new “Garifuna” culture.

Conflict with European Settlers

In the late 18th century French and British settlers in the islands fought for control over Saint Vincent.  The Garinagu population sided with the French.  However the British won, and forced the Garinagu population to the island of Balliceux.  Many thousands died on the journey across the Caribbean and on Balliceux.  Those that survived continued their journey and ultimately settled along the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize.

Garifuna Settlement Day

Every year on 19th November Belizeans celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of one of the largest groups of Garifuna people to the shores of Belize in 1802.  This day is called Garifuna Settlement Day, or sometimes simply as “Yurumein”.  Yurumein is the Garifuna name for Saint Vincent, the island where several Spanish slave ships were wrecked in the 17th century.   This eventually led to the emergence of the Garifuna people and culture.

Garifuna Culture and Language

The Garifuna language belongs to the Arawakan group of languages and has survived centuries of discrimination and linguistic domination. It is rich in tales (úraga) originally recited during wakes or large gatherings.  The Garifuna language has also adopted words from the other nationalities that are involved in their history.  This includes French, Spanish and English.

If you ask a Garifuna person to count from one to twenty, you will soon recognize the French influence.  The Garifuna words for window, sheep, and cheese are also examples of the French influence.  Many Garifuna people’s surnames are traditional Spanish names, such as Martinez and Bermudez.  Others are Spanish, such as Augustin and Franzua.

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Warasa Garifuna Drum School

 

Experience authentic, interactive lessons in traditional Garifuna drumming, dancing, drum-making and more at Warasa Garifuna Drum School.  Visit us in the peaceful coastal town of Punta Gorda.
Learn about the rich history and culture of the Garifuna while learning the different traditional drumbeats and dances that influence music throughout Belize and Central America.
Enjoy our spacious traditional thatch drum school in the heart of the Garifuna community.  Surround yourself with lush vegetation, see parakeets flocking around, hear sounds of howler monkeys nearby.
All just a 20 minute walk, 10 minute bike ride or quick taxi ride away.
We share the Garifuna culture with locals and visitors which helps to preserve the culture for generations to come.  We welcome guests of all ages and backgrounds.  Don’t worry if you’ve never done any kind of drumming before or if you think you can’t dance.  We welcome those with no rhythm, two left hands, two left feet, and of course those who consider themselves professionals.
Read about us in Lonely Planet,  Moon Belize and most other reputable guidebooks.  Also check our TripAdvisor reviews, Facebook reviews and Google+ reviews.

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How to shake your arse (Belize style)

Go to any bar with live music at night in Belize, and you will witness the dominant form of Belizean dancing, which like the dominant form of Belizean music (Punta rock), originates from traditional Garifuna culture.  That is, it involves shaking your arse.   Visitors to Belize often marvel at how Belizean women especially are able to “move their ass completely independently of the rest of their body”, and think that they have developed special arse muscles that allow such frenetic yet well-controlled booty manoeuvres.

I have a secret to share: no special arse muscles are involved.  In fact, I would venture that you don’t really use your arse muscles at all.  Or even your waist muscles (not at beginners’ level punta/punta rock dancing anyway).  The key is all in the feet and legs.  If you stand still, feet shoulder width apart, bend your knees slightly, and then bend one knee more than the other, you will find your other knee straightens.  Then you switch and bend your other knee forward more.  Keep doing this, and you will find a funny thing happens: your arse moves side to side.  No special arse muscles required.

Of course, to look professional, you have to do it in time to the music, and be able to move around side-to-side, forwards, backwards, in a circle, and a few other little fancier movements here and there, but that is the basic secret.  So stop focussing on your arse, shift your knees, and be prepared to look like an idiot.

Ray likes to take credit for the fact that I can now dance punta (and paranda, and to a certain extent hungu-hungu), and while he did give me two or three lessons (where even though it was just me and him in the house I still felt like a complete idiot!), I think most of it just came from getting bored sitting down watching everyone else having a good time, and finally thinking “ach stuff it who cares” to all those that wanted to laugh at the white gal who (couldn’t) dance.

http://www.warasadrumschool.com

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