The Garinagu (plural form of Garifuna), called the Black Caribs1 by seventeenth and eighteenth century European explorers, are a people of West African and Native American descent who number approximately 400,000 and live along the Caribbean coasts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua and in US urban centers. Today, the Garifuna2 exist as arguably the only people of African descent to escape the physical and psychological chattels of slavery, intermix with Native Americans in the Caribbean, develop and maintain an indigenous language and corpus of postmortem propitiation rituals and dance-song genres, and endure numerous attempts at racial annihilation and cultural genocide.
In the late eighteenth century, the British defeated them in battle, took their homeland (the island of St. Vincent, called Yurumein in the Garifuna language), and exiled them to the eastern Caribbean, specifically Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras. Subsequent migrations to mainland Honduras resulted in the establishment of numerous coastal Garifuna settlements. Civil unrest and massacres on the mainland, coupled with attempts to discover peaceful lands in which to reside, led to a series of migrations to Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Their marginalized existence along the coast from Belize south to Nicaragua nurtured a preservation of indigenous practices—music recognized as, perhaps, the most salient—which few cultures can parallel. Aspirations for improved employment and educational opportuni- ties in the mid-twentieth century resulted in migrations to large metropolitan centers in the US, specifically New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. In addition to sharing a common autochthonous Awarak and Carib-based language, his- tory of military conflicts and survival, culinary arts traditions, corpus of sacred and secular rituals, and style of daily dress and costume regalia for annualprocessional rites, the Garifuna. possess genres of sonic expression (singing and drumming traditions) that are culturally distinct.
For the Garifuna, songs describe and comment on the experiences and challenges of life (Cayetano 2013). Music is generally inclusive of related forms of cultural expression such as dance and ritual and, therefore, is the form of identity that best articulates the passion and pathos of the collective soul and world view of the Garifuna. Because music is the most popular form of cultural expression, it is employed more often than other arts to celebrate identity.3 It is the medium through which commentary on social and cultural events is most frequently conveyed and around which cultural competitions4 have been designed in recent years.
The purpose of The Garifuna Music Reader is to provide an overview of Garifuna music culture as it relates to identity and to communal events sur- rounding belief systems associated with ancestor veneration, creolized forms of Christian worship, seasonal masked processionals, annual commemorative cul- tural celebrations, and the evolution of punta rock and Garifuna world music. It is a compilation of new and previously published articles, such as of data from websites, peer-reviewed articles from journals, and chapters from books and a dissertation. It includes articles by ethnomusicologists, historians, and anthro- pologists representing both Garifuna and non-Garifuna scholars whose con- tributions are primarily interpretations and analyses of the music and cultural traditions of the Garifuna of Belize. Although the primary geographical focal point of this text is Garifuna music as performed, experienced, and interpreted in Belize, the content of each article also reflects cultural traditions maintained by all culture-centered Garifuna whether they reside in an urban center in the USA or a Garifuna village in Central America. Because Garifuna is first an orally transmitted language, variations exist in written transcriptions of the language, especially when comparing words in Garifuna orthographies and dictionaries compiled by Garifuna scholars in English and Spanish-speaking countries.Click Here for a 60 page preview of the 454 page book.
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