In 2001, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized the Garifuna language, dance, and music to be a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The Garifuna are a unique Afro-Caribbean people found in Belize which have preserved much of the language and rhythms of their heritage, including distinct three-piece drums and other percussion instruments.
One of the greatest living Garifuna musicians, Aurelio Martinez, has recently returned to Belize to promote his new album Darandi, which means “thirty” in the Garifuna language. Celebrating three decades of being one of the top songwriters, drummers, dancers, and singers of music that blends traditional Garifuna styles with a variety of modern genres, including jazz, soul, Afropop, and blues, Aurelio Martinez has regularly collaborated with some of Belize’s greatest Garifuna musicians, including Paul Nabor.
The Garifuna are unique in their careful preservation of both the African and indigenous Caribbean melodies, instruments, and rhythms in their music. Retirees and expats love Garifuna music for its intricate rhythmic arrangements and high energy. Garifuna music is designed for dancing, and modern blends with Caribbean favorites like brukdown, calypso, and pop provide excellent live entertainment in places like Belize where you can dance and enjoy the music in an outdoor setting.
Even if you can’t understand songs that use Garifuna lyrics, the passion and soul are evident in every line. Aurelio Martinez and other innovative Garifuna musicians have designed their music for a global audience, playing and performing all around the world. Belize’s own punta rock musical style that was invented in Dangriga (the largest municipality in Belize with a predominantly Garifuna population) blends traditional Garifuna elements with reggae, salsa, rap, and hip-hop.
Garifuna music is much more than simply a way to entertain. The Garifuna people sing traditional songs when working out in the fields or preparing Garifuna culinary favorites like cassava bread. Modern Garifuna musical styles often incorporate a “call and response” format that is ideal for enthusiastic dancing and audience participation.
Cerros Sands is a master-planned, gated community located in Belize’s northern Corozal District. Retirees and expat residents of Cerros Sands can enjoy listening to Garifuna music at the brand new Francesca’s Beach Bar located on the property. One of the best times to experience Garifuna music and culture is on November 19, the nationwide holiday of Garifuna Settlement Day that celebrates the arrival of the Garifuna to the shores of Belize more than 200 years ago.