Ms Dami – Uruwei (The Government)

A wonderful and kind woman passed away this weekend, 18th Jan 2020. Ms Damiana Gutierrez, mother of Cecil Gutierrez, Giovanni, Ronald, Alva and Ivan McDonald, sister to Victor, Virgin and Guadalupe and aunt to many by blood or through love alone.

Ms. Dami is one of the vocalists on the song Uruwei – The Government, which features on the album Umalali: The Garifuna Women’s Project released by Stonetree records.

Ms. Dami loved to sing and dance and was famous for her conch fritters, and many of our guests enjoyed her delicious hudut at Warasa. Below are the lyrics to this poignant (and ever relevant) song.  You can download it from the Stonetree website or stream it here.

Uruwei – The Government

Anihan uruwei ya aü lahayahayan nege lau le lisien (The Government is here, hiring out of love they say)

Nahayaruba gien bumou (I will get a job)

Nahayaruba, wanwa, luba gudemetina (I will get a job for I am poor)

Haliyoun nibadina baume, Nicho (Where shall I take you, Nicho)

Haliyoun nibadina baume, wanwa (Where shall I take you, my dear)

Haliyoun nibadina beiba wabien (Where shall I take you? You had better go home)

Haliyoun nibadina baume Isawelu (Where shall I take you, Isabel)

Haliyoun nibadina baume wanwa (Where shall I take you, my dear)

Haliyoun nibadina beiba wabien (Where shall I take you?You had better go home)

Haliyoun nibadina baume, nirau (Where shall I take you, my son)

Haliyoun nibadina baume, wanwa (Where shall I take you, my dear)

Haliyoun nibadina beiba wabien (Where shall I take you? You had better go home)


The Paranda is the only traditional drumbeat and song genre in Garifuna culture to involve the guitar.  The integration of the guitar into Garifuna music clearly reflects the Latin American influence that occurred when the Garifuna people migrated to Central America.

The Paranda is one of the mostly popular Garifuna styles, and songs are often played at parties and other events.


Aurelio Martinez & Ray

There are many notable singers, including the famed Paul Nabor of Punta Gorda, Belize, and Aurelio Martinez of Honduras.  Most composers of paranda songs are men.  The songs often address emotions, events, and social matters and criticism.

It is also the simplest beat to learn on the Garifuna drums, and will the first beat you are taught if you come to one of our Garifuna drumming lessons.  There are slightly different variations of the beat between Garifuna musicians in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

One of the most popular Paranda songs across the Garifuna world is Malati Isien – you can learn the words and English translation by clicking on this link.

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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)

The Lord’s Prayer in Garifuna

The Lord’s Prayer in Garifuna is beautiful. Even if you are not a Christian or not even a religious person, you will enjoy watching and listening to this Garifuna version of the Lord’s Prayer.  You can learn the lyrics and meaning of another classic Garifuna song, “Malate Isien”, here.

Lafureidun Aburemei

Waguchi Bungiu, lidan sun fulasu,
Nubi la barueihan woun
Aduguwa la le babuserum
Lidan mua, lidan sun fulasu. (aguyugua la)
Ru ru, ru ru, ru ru…


Our Father, God, present everwhere
May your reign come to us. May your
will be done on earth and every where.

During the song everybody holds hands using their pinky fingers while swaying and bending knees to the beat of the song. At certain points of the song there is a bow and then everybody raises their hands together.

The full Lord’s Prayer in Garifuna is as follows:

Wáguchi Búngiu le siélubei (Our Father, who art in Heaven),
inébewalá bíri (hallowed be Thy name),
Nübinlá bidáani lun barúeijan ya uboúagu (Thy Kingdom come),
Adügüwalá bugúndan (Thy will be done),
uboúagu quei ladügüniwa bugúndan (on earth),
siélu (as it is in heaven).
Rúba fein buídurügütu woun lun wéyu le ugúñebei (Give us this day our daily bread),
Ferúdunabei wuríbati le adüga wamáalibei quei ferúduna wamániña ja adügübaña wuríbati woun (and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us),
Mígira báwa lun wáburujan lídoun wuríbani (and lead us not into temptation),
dísegüdarügü báwa luei (but deliver us from evil),
Ladüga anürü le arúeijabei, amürü le Súntibei Gabáfu, amürü le weírigubei lun sun dan. Ítaralá. (For the kingdom, the power, and the glory, are Yours now and forever. Amen.)

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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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.

Yurumein: The story of the Garifuna

Every year on 19th November, Ray, his family, and pretty much every Garifuna person in Belize (plus lots of other interested Belizeans and visitors) will attend their local “Yurumein” on the national holiday known as Garifuna Settlement Day, the anniversary of when the largest group of Garifuna people arrived on the shores of Belize.


Yurumein is the Garifuna name for St. Vincent, the island where several Spanish slave ships were wrecked in the 17th century, allowing their occupants to escape slavery and mix with the local indigenous Arawak and Carib Indians living on the island, creating the Garifuna culture, language and ethnicity.  But the word “Yurumein” now also refers to the annual re-enactment of when the Garifuna arrived in their new homelands in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua after being expelled from St Vincent by the new British colonialists in the 19th century.

In PG, this re-enactment involves two or three boatloads of Garifuna people paddling towards the main dock, carrying essential crops such as banana, plantain, cassava and coconut to plant wherever they land.  The also carry their flag, and also come playing drums to announce their arrival.  Unlike the original arrival, in the Yurumein re-enactment, hundreds of local Garifuna people line the shore and the dock waiting to greet their brethren, wearing traditional clothes and also carrying flags, drums, and crops, and singing and dancing in greeting.  Local British/Zimbabwean/Belizean Jack Nightingale, who is a portly middle-aged white man with blonde/white hair and an English accent, takes on the role of the British Governor General, and thus when the first boat requests permission to settle in Belize (British Honduras way back then), he refuses the request.



He refuses two or three more times, and the lead boat paddles back to discuss the next move with the other boats, but persistence pays off, and eventually the Garifuna boats are granted permission to land and settle the uninhabited coast in the south of Belize.  The new arrivals land their boats, and join in with the singing, dancing and drumming, and parade town to much celebration, before going to church for a brief ceremony.

Last year, 2010, 19th November was a rainy day, but although rain stops many Belizeans going out under normal circumstances, the Yurumein still went ahead, and had even more poignancy, as made you ponder what it must have been like to travel across the sea for weeks looking for a new homeland, only to be refused entry.  I would have persisted also!

And so the coastal Garifuna towns and villages Dangriga, Punta Gorda, Hopkins, Barranco and Seine Bight were formed.  The other Garifuna village in Belize, Georgetown, is inland, but was only founded after some families from Seine Bight relocated following a bad hurricane.  While Garifuna people make up less than 10% of the population of Belize, their influence is widespread, especially in the areas music and education, with the majority of Belizean musicians and a large percentage of Belizean teachers being of Garifuna heritage.

Ronald McDonald learns to ceilidh

According to Ray, I dance to everything the same way.  I admit I’m not the world’s greatest dancer, but I know for a fact that I definitely do not dance to Teenage Kicks the same way I dance to Ray’s drumming.  Living in Belize for several years has a strange affect on your dancing style though.  Instead of tapping your foot or bopping your head along to music, you end up shaking your arse.  Even while sitting down.  Even to The Proclaimers.  Ray is a good dancer, and thanks to me, has even mastered the Gay Gordons and Military Two Step.  We had a mini-ceilidh at our wedding, which was definitely the highlight of the reception, as Belizeans love to dance, and so we had a room of people in hysterics as they all attempted to keep up with the old heel-toe-heel-toe in the tropical heat of Belize.   Sadly all my official and unofficial photographers also joined in, so I have no photographs of this epic moment, but we may repeat the event annually since everyone enjoyed it so much!  Ray will get his ceilidh skills tested to the max this New Year’s however, as we joining in on the Edinburgh Hogmanay Street Keilidh – he’ll have to dance or he’ll freeze!  Now if only I could persuade him to don a kilt…

The Drum Whisperer

Ray is famous in PG for his drumming. He may never have one the annual “Battle of the Drums” competition in PG (clearly the judges aren’t in their correct minds), but anyone that loves drumming will hire Ray and his family to drum for any event above any other local group. As Ludwig Palacio, local poet, artist and veterinarian once said to me: “some people knock drum like they’re at war with it, like they’re trying to knock it into submission… but Ronald – he caresses that drum and produces something magical” Of course I am totally biased, but I do happen to think Ray is the best drummer in Belize, possibly the world. One day, I asked Ray how he learned to play the Primero. I knew that he taught himself from age 5, but obviously he must have been watching someone. Sadly his inadvertent teacher (called Simon) is no longer alive he said, but he must have been good. Ray says his teachers at school would always scold him at school for drumming on his desk…it’s such a shame they couldn’t have channelled his talent instead of telling him off about it.