For the 2007 project year, members of the percussion ensemble studied Garifuna music from Central America. They participated in an eight-week workshop taught by master teacher/musician James Lovell. Mr. Lovell is a native of Dangriga, a town in Belize. James taught students three of many genres of Garifuna music, namely Punta, Paranda, and Hungu-Hungu. Students first received an overview of the Garifuna culture, which included learning specifically about the three music genres. They learned the role of each genre and how it is practiced in a cultural context.
In all three styles of music, the drum is the primary instrument. There are two types of drums that are played. One is the Segundo, which is the larger of the two and functions as the heartbeat of the music. It maintains the pulse and the tempo. The other, the Primero, is the smaller drum that is used to follow the movements of the dancer. The Primero drummer will often improvise based on the dancer and his or her feelings. Other instruments that are used to play each style are the maracas, calabash, turtle shell, wood block, and voice.
Each style has a specific function. Punta is played and danced in festive occasions such as weddings, births, independence day, carnivals, etc. Paranda is played and danced at social gatherings. It is more of a serenade. It functions as a means to tell a story about issues within the community and/or government such as political injustices, neighbor’s disputes, drugs, sickness, death, love, etc. Hungu, Hungu is music that is semi religious and semi secular. This genre is played and danced in a graceful manner.
The Garifuna are descendants of three cultures, Arawaks, Caribs, and Africans. They were exile from St. Vincent in 1796. This exodus placed Garifuna people in Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Nicaragua. Upon their arrival in these countries, the Garifuna were discriminated against and treated as second-class citizens. Despite their displacement from Yurumien, their homeland, the Garifuna maintained their cultural practices such as language, religion, food, music, and clothes within a foreign dominant culture. Today, Garifuna people have made remarkable achievements in education, medicine, politics, and technology.
Buiti Biabi words and music by James Lovell