Belizean Bramming
Article by Wendy Auxillou

In the days leading up to the holidays, nothing warms the cockles of my heart or makes me want to spend money more than the sound of Christmas music. All it takes is for “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” to come on the radio and I am instantly transcended mentally to the winter wonderland of the North Pole with Santa and his elfin helpers.

BUT, I am a Belizean at heart. And the idea of a winter wonderland is so imported, so Western. And since I do not subscribe to the idea that shifting to Western culture is the same as trading up on our local customs, and since I am the quintessential believer in all things wonderfully Belizean, as colorful as those visions of sugarplums are, they do not even rate in comparison to the superior Belizean Christmas folk brams and sprees of my childhood memories conjured up by the lovely sounds of uniquely Belizean Christmas music.

The tradition of spreading Christmas merrymaking from house to house by way of singing, dancing and playing music on traditional homemade musical instruments such as the “comb and paper” and “spoon and grater” is uniquely and wonderfully ours. Add to that a little Brad Pattico, sprinkle in some Belize Choral Society, mix with some Mr. Peter’s, season with some Belizean Brukdown, toss in some marimba music, add to that a hearty helping of Junkunu if you are down Dangriga way and viola!! Homegrown right here in little wonderful Belize is your best Christmas music ever!!

Even though many of our wonderfully superior Belizean Christmas brams, sprees, and music traditions are slowly being replaced by the soft invasion of foreign western values and western music due to television, I am happy to know that there are other interested folks in this here beautiful Belize who, like me, still believe that the best Christmas is a true Belizean Christmas.

Working hard to reverse the trend towards “foreign” and bringing back the local Belizean customs is a new music festival down Cayo way. The brainchild of my beloved father, Ray Auxillou, the ANNUAL MAYA MOUNTAIN MUSIC FESTIVAL is this year being held in the hills of Hillview (a suburb of Santa Elena, Cayo) on December 23rd. Small in size but BIG in its mission to preserve Belizean culture, especially the dying art of playing marimba music, the festival this year is offering a TEENAGE MARIMBA CONTEST with a cash prize of $1000 BZ to the Cayo District teenager who can best play a dozen full length songs of professional quality on the marimba. Some rules apply. But more information can be had by calling Ray at 663-5580. Here is an excerpt from the festival’s flyer:

“The intent of the GRAND PRIZE contest is to create a replacement set of teenagers and youths who will put in the effort and time necessary to become semi-professionals and use the MARIMBA music as a sideline money maker in the tourist business. Learning to do trills and rolls on the Marimba takes a lot of time and practice. Kids pecking away with one stick picking out piano key board tunes is not going to cut it. We need a new generation of Marimba players in a revival of a 150 year old folk music tradition in Western Belize. I would think even six months practice would be cutting it short for preparation.”

The event promises to be very low key. Entry is FREE! The festival is between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. depending on the number of people with instruments showing up. Spectators should probably bring their own chairs. There were enough last year, but they might not be enough this year.

If you know someone who might be interested in participating in the contest, or playing a musical instrument at the festival, and thereby helping to preserve Belizean culture, please contact the organisers or pass the information on. Deadline for contest entries is December 12th.

If you have the time and the love for all things culturally Belizean like I do, check around your home to see if you have some extra comb and paper, or spoon and grater (or a mouth organ, accordion, guitar, trumpet, jaw bone or even your best singing voice), and please bring it along to the festival with you. I promise to work really hard at getting some rum-poe-po and black fruit cake there.

BIG UP the true Belizean bramming always and the folks that keep on Belizing that we are number one in culture despite the foreign attack on our local customs!

Questions or comments, please e-mail me at [email protected] Thanks for reading!

Wendy Auxillou
Auxillou Beach Suites
Caye Caulker, Belize