The Music of Belize

the-music-of-belize

Everything you need to know about Belizean Music

Belize has a rich and varied musical history, partly in due to the contributions of various cultures and groups living in the country. Whether it is modern genres like punta rock or traditional dances inherited from the long centuries of Maya presence, the music of Belize is truly unique.

Mestizo Music

Following a number of bloody wars in neighboring Mexico, a group known today as the Mestizos emigrated to Belize, bringing their unique musical styles and influences with them. Mestizo music often features the marimba, a Caribbean twist on an African xylophone-like instrument. Mestizo musical styles featuring the marimba usually also have a double bass, drum sets, and other instruments.

A popular musical genre performed in Mestizo areas of Belize is cumbia, an energetic up-tempo style similar to merengue, salsa, and other latino dances.

Kriol Music

Developed by the African slaves and their descendants brought to Belize, Kriol music has developed a number of unique genres. One of the most popular styles of Kriol music is known as brukdown (Creole for “breakdown”, referring to “broken down calypso”) that includes a popular sub-genre called buru. Originally, buru was performed by musicians using a banjo, drums, and the jawbone of a donkey. Other sub-genres of brukdown include mento music, heavily influenced by Jamaican and Trinidadian forms of calypso music.

One of the hottest genres of Kriol music today is called “boom and chime”, featuring an electric guitar, conga drums, and a bass guitar.

Garifuna Music

Garifuna culture first developed when African slaves imported to work on Caribbean island plantations intermarried with indigenous Caribbean islanders. Due to social isolation, the Garifuna preserved their unique language, food, and musical styles that incorporate African rhythms and philosophies.

There are dozens of traditional Garifuna folk dance and musical styles, including: hungu-hungu, combination, matamuerte, laremuna wadaguman, gunjai, sambai, paranda, berusu, arumahani, and abaimahani. The most popular Garifuna-influenced modern styles include punta and punta rock, popular for their danceable rhythms and up-tempo beats.

The most important elements of traditional Garifuna music are the drums. Sometimes played separately, Garifuna drums are traditionally made from local hardwoods like mahogany and fitted with domestic animal skins like deer, sheep, or peccaries. Garifuna drums are often accompanied by an instrument known as a sisera, similar in appearance and design to maracas.

Modern Musical Styles

Music and dancing are integral elements in Belizean culture, and it is now possible to hear a wide variety of different musical styles throughout the country, including reggae, punta, soca, dancehall, hip hop, rock n’ roll, and even heavy metal. The most popular musical styles heard at clubs and dances include top 40 music from the USA and Britain, soca (from Trinidad) and dancehall (from Jamaica).

Thanks to its unique history as a melting pot of different cultures, languages, and musical styles, Belize has served as a catalyst for fusions of traditional and modern musical styles. Whether it is the high-speed patter of singing in cumbia in the north or the steady rhythms of Garifuna drums in the southeast, Belize is a country where music is cherished, enjoyed, and extremely popular with both locals and visitors alike.

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