Lebeha Drumming Center: A Great Place to Learn about Garifuna Culture

Lebeha Drumming Center: A Great Place to Learn about Garifuna Culture

Lebeha Drumming Center

One of Belize’s many wondrous qualities is its diverse array of cultures. Where other countries see ethnic groups continuing to diminish, along with the language and traditions of those groups, Belize has a robust cornucopia of cultures including Mestizo, Creole and even the Garifuna. Many of these cultures have their own little regions; Toledo District is known for the Maya and Stann Creek District is known for the Garifuna.

Lebeha Drumming Center

The Lebeha Drumming Center was established in Hopkins, Belize, in 2002. Jabbar Lambey and Dorothy Pettersen founded the site to sustain Garifuna musical traditions, pass them on to future generations and inform visitors of this wonderful culture. While the site has a focus on percussion instruments like drums, it has also receive several guitars to be used in performances and demonstrations. Four years later, it would receive a Grammy nomination in “Traditional Music” for a CD titled “Traditional Garifuna Music.”

About the Name

Lebeha is a Garifuna word for “the end” and was chosen simply due to the center’s location. The school is located along the edge of Hopkins Village, near several budget rooms, a small guesthouse and cabins. The school’s main feature is a drumming center that is more than welcoming of locals and out-of-towners. While drumming is a regular activity every day, the weekends are when things get their most passionate and exciting.

What You Can Do There

When you visit Lebeha, you can watch male Garifuna students practice and perform or you can take part in an active experience by joining in on some drumming lessons. If you enjoy your time and wish to grow the school and support its mission, Lebeha both accepts donations and offers drumming CDs for sale. The Garifuna youth and men of the area are all accomplished musicians who know how to communicate their culture’s musical traditions and dance routines. To be blunt, no trip to Hopkins Village is complete without a visit to Lebeha.

About Garifuna Instrumentals

Garifuna music is known for its garaones, tension drums made of mahogany, cord and deer hide. They also tend to have some wire or fishing line stretched over the drumhead to create “buzzing” that is quintessentially Garifuna.

Garaones are broken up into three varieties: “lanigi,” “lufarugu” and “luruwahn.”

  • Lanigi is Garifuna for “heart-drum” and is used for accenting dance movements.
  • Lufarugu is Garifuna for “shadow-drum” and sets the beat for dancing.
  • Luruwahn is Garifuna for “third drum” and its low pitch has it serving as a means of establishing bass. When paired with the lufarugu, the rhythm is able to be more syncopated.

Belize is full of wonderful cultures, some of which are downright unique to the country. The Garifuna are one of these unique Belizean cultures that are a treat to learn about. If you happen to be visiting Hopkins Village or even just the Stann Creek District, Lebeha Drumming Center is well worth your time.

Photo courtesy: Lebeha Drumming Center


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