Music lovers throughout the nation were stunned by the news that Belizean icon Wilfred Peters MBE, fondly known as “Bra Pete” or “Mista Peetaz” had passed away at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City at 2:30 Wednesday afternoon, June 9th.
The undisputed “King of Brokdong Music,” had been ailing since Sunday when damage to his lungs caused by years of smoking caught up with him, and he collapsed from an emphysema attack. His wife Martha told the Reporter that on Sunday June 6 he began to suffer with breathing problems and they rushed him to the K.H.M.H. at 9:30 that night.
At the hospital, he suffered a heart attack, but the doctors were able to revive him after about five minutes, and he was sedated and admitted to ward.
Rodriguez said she told him she was going home and would be back later, but she had barely arrived home when she was called back to the hospital where she was told he had died of a massive heart attack.
Wilfred Peters is survived by his wife of 57 years Martha, nine children, grand children and the nation of Belize.
Belizean musicians and other from the region such as Costa Rica’s Manuel Obregon of the Orquesta de la Papaya and Carlos Perrote and Friends had gathered to honor Mr Peters on his 79th birthday for his contribution to the Belizean music industry with a “Brukdong” concert tat the Bliss Institute on Sunday, April 18.
His last concert was at the Cacao Festival in Punta Gorda on May 23. He had also participated in the cultural extravaganza by which Costa Rica welcomed the inauguration their first female president.
The nation woke up every morning to the sound of Mr Peters’ “Good mawning, Belize’ which was recorded on the Celebration CD in collaboration with Frankie Reneau. He also had hits with “Shall I, Baby” and “Solomon gyah”
Peters promoted Belizean brukdong music far and wide, in Canada and Spain. His stature was recognized and documented in the musical documentary The Three Kings, produced by Katya Paradis.
Mr. Peters’ music always had to go with a little taste. A little taste for the accordion man, a little taste for the jawbone man, a little taste for the dancers, and a little taste for me and you. This was brukdown. Come een: da me mek anh.
Alcohol was a great discovery: it was also, we now well know, a dangerous one. But in the world of brukdown, alcohol always played its finest role. The spirits loosened up things, and then our love flowed. It seemed as if there could never be excess alcohol in our roots world. You danced it out, or talked it out, or slept it out. This was brukdown. Always, the party continued.
You can’t pay tribute to Mr. Peters with words written on paper. That is why the freeing of Belizean radio was so historically and culturally important. In the days of colonialism, and even self-government, they played Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Doris Day, Patti Page, Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson on the government radio. They played safe music. They played decent music. They played other people’s music. We, the roots, never got our respect. In the days of the government radio monopoly, Wilfred Peters was practically a nobody. When he died on Wednesday, Mr. Peters was a superstar, an icon, a national treasure. This was the role of free radio. Belize for Belizeans.
Big up, Mr. Peters, Play di music. Hib anh lang shore. Bottle panh table: draw di cark. Hib anh … hib anh … hib anh … and a rutunkutunku …
Celebrate the life. Belize for Belizeans. Wilfred Peters, maximum respect. You were truly loved. Rest in peace.
The Official funeral for Wilfred Peters MBE was held this morning at St. John's Cathedral in Belize City. Fittingly, it was not a completely somber or dispiriting event - true to the reputation of the man whose music had inspired so many good times in his life, it was full of music and good humour. Monica Bodden was there.
Monica Bodden, Reporting
Many Belizeans - young and old lined the streets of the old capital this morning to pay their last respect to the King of Boom and Chime and Brukdown music.
The procession left off from the City's morgue at 8 o'clock this morning and made its way unto to St Thomas Street, down Freetown Road, unto Douglas Jones, Youth for the Future Drive, Cemetery Road, Orange Street and then unto Albert Street - where the church service was held at St John's Cathedral.
His wife Martha, along with his children, grandchildren, and a host of other relatives, friends and fans gathers inside the church where they view the body of Mr Peters one last time.
It was no ordinary funeral, as you can see there was live musical entertainment by Bredda David alongside a host of other well known musicians - all playing a variety of Mr Peter's most popular tunes such as "Salamon Gi-ahh" and "Run Mr
(Petas) Run"… It was indeed a celebration of the life of the legendary King of Brukdown. It was quite obvious as feet's were tapping inside the church, while many chattered some of their best memories with the Bruk down king himself.
The official remembrance of Mr. Peters was done by Dianne Haylock President of NICH. She spoke about the life of the musical entertainer - his 14 children, his beautiful wife Martha, his love for the accordion, his tribute to Belizean culture and the many countries his brand of brukdown music travelled throughout.
Dianne Haylock, President NICH "Brukdown music was Mr. Peter's life, he began performing with the accordion at the tender age of 7 and by the time he was a teenager he began to make a name for himself. And that young prince would grow up to become the undisputed king of brukdown. Brukdown music reflected the journey of the African slaves into the Mahogany camps ob Belize in the 17th century and it is here where the boom and chime band began to take shape as the men made music to entertain themselves during their long stay away from the family. Mr. Peters boom and chime band consisted of the accordion, guitar, boom drum, tumba drum, jawbone, bass guitar and the ding a ling because of the sound it makes. We in Belize owe Mr. Peters our gratitude for being a great preserver and protector of this vital aspect of our cultural heritage."
The service was held by Reverent Canon LeRoy Flowers. Present at the Funeral was the Prime Minister of Belize, The leader of the opposition, other Ministers of Government, along with a host of great musicians such as Paul Nabor and a variety of well known public figures. After an hour the Funeral service ended as everyone lined up in front of St John's Cathedral to march the body of Mr Wilfred Peters once more through the streets of Belize City before put to rest.
Mr. Peters was buried at the Lord's Ridge Cemetery.
Today funeral services were held for Belizean music icon and legendary king of Brukdong, Wilfred Peters. His body was escorted from the KHMH morgue by members of the Belize Defense Force and band where it was taken to Saint John’s Cathedral for a mass of thanksgiving. An official remembrance was done by President of NICH Diane Haylock.
Diane Haylock – President, NICH
“Mr. Peters learned to play music by ear and as he talked about his music he would break into a catchy little tune and add some words to it, for the most part he made up his own tunes but he also used instrumental tunes of yore and put words to them. He said some of the tunes were even before his grandfather’s time. Some of the words of his songs were written by his brother for example 11 bocotora, but many of his songs were of his own experiences and the experiences of the common man. The popular Peter’s brukdown song Salaman gian was actually an old song that they played at wakes and told nancy stories. Brukdown music was Mr. Peter’s life. He began performing with the accordion at the tender age of 7 and by the time he was a teenager he began making a name for himself and that young prince would grow up to become the undisputed king of brukdown. Brukdown music reflected the journey of the African slaves into the mahogany camps of Belize in the 17th century and it was here where the Boom and Chime Band began to take shape as the men made music to entertain themselves during their long stay away from the family. Mr. Peter’s Boom and Chime Band consisted of the accordion, guitar, boom drum, tumba drum, jawbone, bass guitar and the ding-a-ling because of the sound it makes. We in Belize owe Mr. Peters our gratitude for being a great preserver and protector of this vital aspect of our cultural heritage. Mr. Peter’s fame transcended Belize’s borders, he performed his brand of brukdown music throughout the Caribbean, at various Carifestas in Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba. He also toured major music festivals in Mexico, France, Spain and North America. His last international performance was at a music concert at Costa Rica, just a month ago to inaugurate the new President of that country. Wherever he went, wherever he played he was a big hit.”
His granddaughter Alexia Garnett also took the stand to remember her beloved grampa.
Alexia Garnett – Granddaughter
“Aside from being one of the best musician and the best father, grandfather, he was the number one carpenter; a lot of you guys don’t know that but he was an excellent carpenter. As a matter of fact he and his nephew Todd built his house in six weeks, the same house on North Creek. My grandfather was a man of self respect and discipline that he imparted on all his children and grandchildren, great grandchildren. He taught us self respect, discipline and love; with that he bonded his family which no one can ever tear us apart and that is how we will always remember Wilfred Peters, pa, my grandpa.”
Many prominent figures including Governor General of Belize Sir Colville Young, Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition John Briceno and other ministers attended the services this morning. After the services, Mr. Peters’ body was taken to the Lord Ridge Cemetery where he was laid to rest next to Belizean sculptor George Gabb. His body was escorted by the Belize Defense Force officers. Following the religious burial rites, Mr. Peter’s was given an official gun Salute. The final goodbye was given to the king of Brukdong as family; friends and government officials laid their wreaths on his grave.
Mr Peters performing (Run fu yu life) 2006, The Lord Rhayburn Music Award in Belize.