Music says a lot about a culture. Belize is no different, with its vibrant music styles developing from several related traditions into something wholly unique. One of the most noteworthy is Brukdown music which has been a major medium for conveying the story of Belize for over a century.
The Origins of Belize’s Musical Traditions
The musical styles of Belize are a blend of Spanish, British, African, Mayan, and Mestizo, which reflects the groups of people who have lived in Belize over the last several hundred years. Brukdown is not the only musical style native to Belize. Punta rock, Soca, and Marimba are other popular styles that come from the country.
The Origins of Brukdown Music
Much of Belize’s early economy was focused on the logging industry, from which Brukdown music originated. Dances that came from the laborers gave birth to the Baru style, which over time became more urban and developed into the Brukdown style with the inclusion of banjos, drums, and donkey jawbones.
The term “Brukdown” is popularly considered to be derived from “broken down calypso,” which is due to the style’s similarities and relation with calypso music of Trinidad. Jamaican mento music, brought to Belize by a significant Jamaican population in the country, also influenced Brukdown. The largest cultural influence in Brukdown music, however, is African.
Wilfred Peters is credited with being the best-known innovator and performer of Brukdown music. For his contributions, he has been hailed as an icon of Belize and was awarded a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1997. He played and performed music for sixty years, focusing on his favorite instrument, the accordion.
What Brukdown Music Means
Brukdown music is especially important to the Creole people of Belize, as the music is meant to tell their story. Common stories reflected in the music include the journey of enslaved Africans to work in Belize’s mahogany industry. The music has especially been influential in spreading information about historical and current events to Belizeans who may not be able to read or write. This means Brukdown music is typically performed at large gatherings or during major events.
Anyone who appreciates being exposed to another culture’s music will enjoy time spent in Belize. Belizeans love their music and love to tell their story through it. Brukdown music is one of the preferred mediums Belizeans have used to tell the stories of their country and their people.
Photo Courtesty: https://www.belizelivingheritage.org/