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The most distinctive and popular form of Belizean music you will come across is Punta and Punta Rock. Punta is similar to many Afro-Caribbean and Afro-pop music forms, blending traditional rhythms and drumming patterns with modern electronic instruments (Punta is usually more rootsy and acoustic than Punta Rock, which features electric guitars and keyboards). Pen Cayetano is often credited as being the founder of Punta Rock; you will find his discs and cassettes for sale throughout Belize, as well as those by his successors Andy Palacio, the Garífuna Kids, Travesia Band, Peter Flores (aka Titiman), and Chico Ramos. Punta music is usually sung in the Garífuna dialect, although the latest incarnations feature lyrics in English and even Spanish. Dancing to Punta and Punta Rock is sensuous and close, often settling into a firm butt-to-groin grind.

Paranda is another modern yet more traditional offshoot of Garífuna music and culture. Featuring acoustic guitars and rhythm ensembles, paranda is a lively, syncopated musical form. Paul "Nabby" Nabor is a popular paranda artist. A similar and rootsy form of contemporary folk music that comes from the Kriol tradition is known as brukdown.

In northern and western Belize, near the Mexican and Guatemalan borders, the local mestizo musical forms reflect their Spanish roots with marimba bands and Spanish-language folk songs influenced by the mariachi and ranchero traditions.

There is very little in the way of a club or live music scene in Belize. However, at the hotels in the southern Garífuna region, you are likely to be treated to a performance of traditional Garífuna drumming and dance, and at a few clubs around Belize City, San Pedro, and other popular tourist destinations you should be able to find various rock, reggae, and Punta Rock bands playing.

The best online sources I've found for Belizean music are www.stonetreerecords.com and www.calabashmusic.com. I'd avoid the various vendors selling bootleg cassettes and CDs on the side of the road, since the quality can be sketchy, and the artists don't receive a dime.

Palacio R.I.P. -- On January 19, 2008, Andy Palacio died. Perhaps the best known and most popular proponent of Punta music, he was just 48. In addition to his musical fame, Palacio, who was born in the southern village of Barranco, was a tireless prominent proponent of all facets of Garífuna culture. His final album, Wátina, was released in 2007 to critical acclaim and was awarded the prestigious WOMEX award for World Music.

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