Garifuna Music In Brooklyn

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The May 6 concert, which brought Garifuna artists from Belize as well as Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, followed on the heels of annual Garifuna Survival Day events held in the Bronx, New York. April 12 commemorates the arrival of the Garifuna in Honduras in the late 18th century after the forced exile of their descendants from the British island of St. Vincent. Today, the Garifuna, still mourn the loss of thousands of Garifuna people who died in the passage from St. Vincent to Central America.

Hundreds gathered in the East New York section of Brooklyn on May 6 for an annual concert featuring over a dozen punta rock recording artists from Belize. The five-hour extravaganza, presented by Chicago’s Citrus Belt Productions, featured veteran punta rock artists such as Mohobub Flores, Leela Vernon, Titiman, Mymie as well as younger up-and-coming Belizean artists. 

Punta rock is Central America’s reggaeton: a fast, percussive music that blends afro-indigenous rhythms with a heavy bass-and-guitar rock sound and Latin American influenced instrumentation.  It is the contemporary music of the Garifuna, an afro-indigenous people of mixed African, Arawak and Carib heritage who live in Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and other parts of Central America and the Caribbean.

The May 6 concert, which brought Garifuna artists from Belize as well as Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, followed on the heels of annual Garifuna Survival Day events held in the Bronx, New York. April 12 commemorates the arrival of the Garifuna in Honduras in the late 18th century after the forced exile of their descendants from the British island of St. Vincent.  Today, the Garifuna, still mourn the loss of thousands of Garifuna people who died in the passage from St. Vincent to Central America.

With their visibility in Garifuna communities and on the international stage, many punta rock musicians have become vocal advocates of Garifuna culture and history. At the Brooklyn concert, Mohobub Flores sang “conscious lyricsâ€? from his latest recording, featuring songs such as “Ital Food,â€? and “We Will Return.â€?  The singer known as Ideal pleased the crowd with his energetic performance of the title track from his album “Lidan Danâ€? and “Heritage,â€? a song that speaks to the artist’s deep spirituality and cultural pride.

Leela Vernon, a matron of punta rock known for pride in her roots and culture, made an impassioned appearance. Though not of Garifuna heritage, Leela, who grew up in the Garifuna town of Dangriga, urged the crowd to come together around their shared heritage. “Our Africanness is our one-ness!� she said. Leela shares this message at virtually every performance, constantly striving to “educate our people about their true culture.�

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