Punta Rock at Emancipation Village
DARCEL CHOY Sunday, July 30 2006

IN WHAT has become a well established tradition, one of the highlights of Emancipation celebrations involves artistes from other parts of the African world joining local entertainers in cultural presentations at the Lidj Yasu Omowale Emancipation Village.

This year one of the featured foreign acts is the International Garifuna Band — a friendly merger of the versatile and dynamic Garifuna Stars Band and the Punta Rock, both Bronx-based.

Garifuna is the name of the free people who inhabited the Atlantic Coast of Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and parts of Nicaragua. They are descendants of Africans and Carib-Arawaks who were exiled from their ancestral homeland in St Vincent and went to Central America in 1797.

“The music that we play in the band is called Punta Rock, it is one specific international Garifuna rhythm,” explained Sandra Belle, manger of the Garifuna International said.

Punta Rock, a term which has no association with the genre known as rock is the music of a tiny minority and has become the contemporary musical expression of all Central America, claiming its rightful place along with jazz, blues, salsa, samba, cumbia, merengue, tango, condomble, calypso, gospel, reggae, rap, hip-hop and other musical styles.

“The instruments that we use include Garifuna drums, turtle and conch shells, maracas, bass, keyboards, guitar and drums,” said Belle, who has had production and film experience internationally.

“I was stage manager of a band in Belize and the music over there is so soulful but it is so hard over there to get your music across to people of the world so I decided to form this band with very talented people,” she said. Garifuna International was formed fiive years ago.

When asked why Garifuna styled music Belle said: “It is part of our African heritage so I thought to myself I have to do something to preserve it.”

A few of the band members expressed a great passion for music.

Miriam Suazo-Moore, 34, the only female band member said she loves to dance.

“The beat of the drum affects me so, I just have to dance. I was involved in a folk dance company and when I heard of the Garifuna I knew that I had to be a part of it. It is my culture,” she said.

Keyboard player Roy Martinez, 43, who is from Honduras said: “I love my culture and music.”

Felix Gamboa, 40, lead vocalist said: “The band is my life, it is the air I breathe. I love music, I love teaching my culture to people through music. The best way to catch people’s attention is through music.”

Wendy Auxillou
Auxillou Beach Suites
Caye Caulker, Belize