• WorldView
  • 3 Min Read
  • 19 Jul 2021

The Garifuna Collective: The Soulful Sound of Belize

Members of Belize's The Garifuna Collective perform

Distinctive. Spirited. Powerful. Soulful. These are just a few words to describe the music produced by the Garifuna Collective, an internationally recognized world music group from Belize. If the collective isn't on a world tour, guests on a Lindblad-National Geographic expedition have the opportunity to experience one of their always engaging and culturally enriching performances. “We felt honored (and excited!) that they came to do a private performance. We spent the evening dancing off our dinner and dessert and letting the Garifuna funk fill our souls,” reported one guest aboard our voyage to Belize.

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The Garifuna people have a long history of upheaval, moving from country to country to seek a homeland. After time in St. Vincent, Bequia, and Roatan, the Garinagu (in the Garifuna language, “Garinagu” is the plural) settled along the coastlines of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. These descendants of Arawak and Carib Indians and African populations celebrate their heritage in intergenerational performances, which include stories told in the ancient Garifuna language, traditional clothing, dance, and drum-driven music.


The Garifuna Collective has performed in 30 countries on five continents, and has amassed ardent endorsements from music critics around the globe including the
Wall Street Journal which reported that, “the complex rhythms demand attention and quickly resolve themselves into a completely irresistible groove. When the melodies kick in on top of them, the lushness is overwhelming.” BBC Music described their music as “full of surging seaside rhythms and yearning, soulful melodies that hang in the memory.”

 

UNESCO has included the language, dance, and music of the Garinagnu on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and the Garifuna Collective’s place in preserving and teaching the cultural heritage of the Garinagnu cannot be overstated. According to UNESCO, “economic migration, discrimination and the complete absence of the Garifuna language from the school system are endangering its survival. Although the language is still widely spoken, it is now taught in only one village.”


The infectious music of the Garifuna Collective is made with instruments including turtle shells, maracas, guitars, and various drums. In 2009, the editors at Amazon voted “Wátina” by Andy Palacio and the Garifuna Collective the number one World Music Music Album of All Time. This tribute will hopefully bring new audiences over the years, allowing more people around the globe to discover the evocative and important music of the Garifuna Collective, keeping alive the stories and struggles of the Garinagnu.

 

Preview the sounds of the Garifuna Collective on our playlists which are expertly curated by ethnomusicologist Jacob Edgar. Listen below or find them on Spotify and Apple Music.