The King of Brukdown - Wilfred Peters
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Wednesday February 22, 2017

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The King of "Brukdown" - Wilfred Peters

The legendary Mr.Peters!

Here's a nice article on Mr. Peters in the international press...

Belize: Remembering Mr. Peters’ Boom and Chime Band

Not too long ago there were “boom and chime” bands all over Belize, a speck on the Central American map just below Mexico. If you were lucky enough to get down there before 2010 you likely heard the country’s top boom band, led by the iconic accordionist/singer Wilfred Peters, batting out peppy, booty-swinging tunes at parades, festivals, parties and miscellaneous jump-ups.

You’ll still hear budding boom and chimers here and there, but seven years ago the last of the genre’s old-time heavy hitters bit the dust when Peters slipped away at 79 to that big dancehall in the sky.

Peters’ chief sideman was a drummer who beat one side of his drum with a mallet to make a booming sound. The other side had a metal rim, which the drummer hit with a hollow metal stick to make a chiming sound. Hence, “boom and chime.”

Their songs featured the country’s homegrown and still popular mish-mash of African, Latin and Caribbean music called “brukdown” (slang for “broken down calypso”). It goes back centuries to the days when Belize – formerly British Honduras – was home to escaped slaves, out-of-work pirates (during hard times on the Spanish Main), Black Caribe Indians kicked off the Grenadines, Maya refugees from the Caste War in Mexico, Garifuna farmers evicted from an offshore island, people whose faces were on “Wanted” posters in a half-dozen languages and others who came to timber camps in the country’s steaming hot jungles to chop down forests of precious mahogany trees.

Wilfred Peters MBE was born on April 15, 1931. He was a Belizean accordionist and band leader, known as the "King of Brukdown." A Belizean national icon, Peters was one of the country’s best loved musicians. He was one of the first recording artists in Belize, “Solomon Gone” and “Eleven Bocotora” being released on the old “45” records and being played on jukeboxes at local clubs in the mid-70’s. As the story goes, he and a couple of other friends used to earned less than $5.00 per day doing construction work, but he knew how to play the accordion and had two friends who could play the guitar and the drums. They decided to combine their talents and form a trio which was named The Mahogany Chips – playing traditional Belize Brukdong music. The Mahogany Chips caught on and soon the group changed its name to Boom and Chine and more men were added. They played all over Belize and the world. Mr. Peters became a Belize celebrity in the West Indies, the United States, the U. K. and elsewhere. It is believed that he is a hero for he has single-highhandedly preserved the traditional music of old Belize and because of that was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth in 1997 for his cultural contributions. What made Mr. Peters’ great according to Greg Vernon, Director of Institute of Creative Arts, NICH, was his own attitude to his craft. “He did not see himself as a professional or music as a business, playing a job. He had a passion for music, and when he played, he went to bram, to have fun. He took his music seriously, but he had fun doing what he did,” After over 60 years of playing, he defined Belizean Creole through his distinctive Brukdong music style and at the age of 79, Mr. Peters died on June 9, 2010. Mr. Peter’s original accordion – as essential to his music as the guitar was to Jimi Hendrix, the trumpet was to Louis Armstrong and the hips were to Elvis – at least has a resting place, at the Bliss Centre for Performing Arts.

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WILFRED PETERS, 1931 – 2010

Prominent among Belizean musicians that span the 20th and 21st centuries is Wilfred Peters, popularly known as “Mr. Peters.” Born on April 15, 1931, his accomplishment in popularizing and embodying Bruk Dong rhythms as a true Belize staple deservedly earned him a state funeral when he passed on June 9, 2010.

Having learned to play the accordion from his father at the age of seven Wilfred grew up on the family farm at Gracie Rock on the Sibun River. The influence for his music most likely came from the loggers who visited his parents’ home, and he converted the mahogany camp stories into lyrics. His songs in subsequent years told of old traditions and people and brought out the humor in country living.

In his early life, Wilfred Peters earned about $5.00 a day as a construction worker in Belize City. This was subsidized by his aptitude in playing the accordion, and along with two friends who played the guitar and drums they combined their talents and formed a trio which was named “The Mahogany Chips.” They earned small amounts of money by playing traditional Belize Bruk Dong music at parties and dances, and very soon the sounds caught on to the extent that more persons were added and the group changed its name to the “Boom and Chime.”

Over time Mr. Peters gave Belize a genre to call its own as he became uncontested on his accordion, and his band brought nothing but energy, passion, and charisma at any venue it played. He literally toured the world embodying Kriol culture, rhythm, and spirit. Apart from performing all over the Caribbean Mr. Peters played on stages in Europe, the United States, and Mexico. In Canada, he performed along with other musicians from all over the world in a festival that specialized in accordions.

Going back to as far as 1976 the “Boom and Chime” has become a household phrase, and has come a long way from the late-night bramming of the past to the popularity it has achieved today. Mr. Peters produced many records to ensure some permanency of the sounds, and it is heartening to see that Wilfred Junior is carrying on the legacy of his father to foster and preserve the tradition.

Photograph courtesy San Pedro House of Culture

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