Grooving to Punta Rock
Former centers of African slave trade, Salvador de Bahia in Brazil, Port-au-Prince in Haiti, or Havana, Cuba are among the destinations for travelers on musical pilgrimages. Belize, too, is a place where villages and towns are alive with the sounds of African music – large wooden drums; turtle shell percussions and acoustic guitarists with booming voices. Along with their own culture, language and religion, the Garinagu brought these unique rhythms to Belize.
Visiting the Belizean Garinagu coastal villages feels like you are in Africa. In the evening, the local bars are filled with Punta Rock, a mix of traditional rhythms and pop music. Punta Rock has become so popular that it is the country’s national music, despite the fact that Garinagu represent just 7% of the country’s population. Imagine African percussion, Cuban Son, American Blues and West African guitars all wrapped into one. Paranda’s (a guitarists style) instrumentation is totally acoustic, just drums and guitars. It is both a Garinagu rhythm and a genre of music.
The basic rhythm can be heard in Garinagu traditional drumming styles dating back to St. Vincent and West Africa during the slavery era. It can also be hears in modern Punta Rock. Paranda became a genre itself in the 19th century, shortly after Garinagu arrived in Honduras. It was there the first encountered Latin music, and incorporated the acoustic guitar, and a touch of Latin and Spanish rhythm into the music. Paranda reached its prominence in the early part of the 20th century, and has changed little since.
There are only a handful of Paranderos alive today. Often there is only one or two per village, and virtually all are over sixty. Home to the largest Garinagu population in Belize, Daringa is the birthplace of Punta Rock. On most weekends you can hear a variety of Punta Rock bands or traditional drumming ensembles performing at various venues throughout the town. For Paranda, it’s the same sad story.