There are only a handful of Paranderos alive today. Often only 1 or 2
per village and virtually all of them are in their 60s, 70s and 80s. In
Central America, like most parts of the world, the younger generation has
fallen in love with Western Pop, or its derivatives. Most musicians play
either pop music, or the Punta Rock.
Paul Nabor (tracks 2, 8, 14) is the greatest living Paranda artist.
He is not only considered a musical legend among the Garifuna, he is
also the "Buyei" (religious leader of his community). Sadly, he is also
the last living Parandero in Punta Gorda. Punta Gorda (locals call it
PG) is a small coastal village is southern Belize.
With mountains to the
west, and the Caribbean sea to the east, there is only one dirt road to
PG: A long bumpy 5 hour drive from the center of the country. At 70,
Nabor still spends many of his days at sea fishing, evenings playing his
guitar, all while working as spiritual leader for his community. He
often talks about how life has changed for the Garifuna. "Growing up, we
got all we needed from the earth. We fished, we farmed. We picked
coconuts, made our own instruments. Occasionally we'd trade for new
clothes. That was it. After the introduction of 'money' things changed.
People now feel that they need 'more and more stuff, things'. More and
more Garifuna keep moving to the cities where they are unhappy since
they've lost touch with the land."
Paul Nabor is no longer in good health, though he continues to work a
full schedule of fishing, playing guitar, and leading his congregation.
Nabor wrote the moving, "Naguya Nei" (track 2) when his sister was on her
deathbed. She had asked to be remembered in song at her funeral. The
song has become almost an anthem in Punta Gorda. Nabor has expressed
that he would like the funeral procession to sing this song at his burial
Jursino Cayetano (tracks 3 and 9)
More than half of Guatemala's 5000 Garifuna live Livingston, including
Jursino Cayetano. The town now has number of small hotels offering
excursions for "eco-travellers" on route between the bay of Amatique and
Lake Izabal. Cayetano, now 60, is Guatemala's last living Parandero. He
is a tall skinny soft spoken old man who, like Nabor, Cayetano grew up
fishing. One of ten children, he taught himself the guitar at the age of
27, and has been playing ever since. For nearly two decades, he was able
to earn a living as a musician playing Paranda in Livingston and the
nearby coastal city of Puerto Barrios, something that is impossible to do
today. So, Cayetano can be once again found alternating between fishing
in the day, and playing the guitar his free time. As I began recording a
song to use on my radio program, we immediately attracted a large group
of Garifuna children eager to see why an American journalist was taping
traditional Garifuna folk songs. After explaining in my bad Spanish what
I was trying to do, a group of about 15 started dancing around me. This
was certainly better than any beach resort. Acoustic guitar, Garifuna
drums, Coke bottles, turtle shells, and Cayetano's mellow yet bluesy
voice. I was once again reminded of music of West African guitarists
Mansour Seck or Ali Farka Toure. I then told Cayetano of how his music
reminded me a bit of music of Mali and Senegal. He looked at me
completely puzzled. "Mali?" responded Cayetano. "I don't understand."
I forgot that in Livingston, Guatemala, West African geography probably
wasn't part of the curriculum. I then rephrased the question in my bad
Spanish and explained how his music reminded me quite a bit of what I
heard in West Africa. "Of course. We are Africans."
Juni Aranda (tracks 1,7 and 12) is one of the younger Paranderos at 57.
He lives in Dangriga, the largest Garifuna city in Belize. The city is
known as the cultural capital for the Garifuna, and was the birthplace of
Punta Rock. Today, many top Punta artists live there, including Titiman
Flores and Mohobub Flores.
Sadly, like most of the region, there are
only a few Paranderos left in Dangriga, and Aranda is the only musician
in the city still playing Paranda. Currently unemployed, but while he
may lack steady work, he hasn't lost a bit of spirit. In his small
wooden home, he was ecstatic upon hearing the first version of the
Paranda recording session. Aranda explained that many Paranda songs
were a way of "getting back" at people. In a thick Creole accent and a
scratchy voice he explained, "When someone does bad things to you, we
don't start fights, we get back at them in a song." Aranda has songs
about people in town who owe him money, past girlfriends, and former
employers. If someone has crossed Aranda, everyone in town quickly
learns about it.
Aranda bought his first guitar at the age of 15, a guitar that was
destroyed by Hurricane Hattie of 1961, a hurricane that destroyed much of
Dangriga. Hundreds were killed, including Aranda's uncle Oscario who
taught him how to play Paranda. Junior Aranda still sings about
Hattie, an event that is still vivid for all Garifuna of his generation.
From the sad remembrances of Hattie, Junior Aranda was once again
breaking into laughter when Ivan and I asked him about his new song,
"Mingigili". "I don't get it," remarked Ivan, "Everytime I
bring up this song, you can't stop laughing."
For the next five minutes, Aranda laughed hysterically. Finally, he
explained "Mingigili". "What the song says is," once again he
couldn't stop laughing, "When your farts no stink maan". We were a little
confused. "See, it is about when your farts don't stink, and your lady
still loves you. When you are so much in love, you can do anything,
fart, spit, and she is still crazy about you." The three of us then
began laughing uncontrollably.
Today Junior Aranda is teaching his son, Austin (now in high school)
Paranda music to pass on the music for future generations.
Gabaga Williams / Dale Guzman (Tracks 10 and 13)
Gabaga Williams is one of the greatest Garifuna composers of all time.
When he joined the other Paranderos to record this album in Belize City he immediately
picked up his guitar and began to play. With severe arthritis, and
health failing, he broke into tears as he couldn't finish a song.
Guitarist Dale Guzman, a school-teacher and Parandero from Belize City,
comforted Gabaga, whom Dale has long admired as a legendary composer, assuring him
that he would perform his compositions on the album.
[NOTE: Since this was written, Gabaga has passed away. He was buried in Dangriga Town, and is always remembered in song wherever Paranda music is played.]
Lugua Centeno Petio / Teofilo Centeno (Tracks 5 and 11)
Lugua Is the leader of band Lugua & the Larubeya Drummers and has toured through Europe and North America. Lugua grew up in Honduras before moving to the
Yabrough neighborhood of Belize City in 1984.
Although there are many more Garifuna in Honduras compared to Belize
(160,000 and 13,000 respectively), Lugua left Honduras, a country
dominated by Latin music to be in Belize, which has become the center of
With a booming voice reminiscent of Manu Dibango or Babatunde Olatunji,
Lugua regularly enlivens Yabra's quiet streets banging on huge wooden
Garifuna drums. He joined the Paranderos for this recording as a
tribute to his late father who was a legendary Parandero in Honduras.
Tracks 5 and 11 are covers of some of Lugua's favorite songs that his
father Teofilo sang to him while growing up in Honduras.
Aurelio Martinez (Tracks 4, 6 and 15)
Aurelio Martinez represents the future of Paranda. At
27, he is the youngest musician on the album. He is also the youngest of
10 children, most of which are musicians, but he is the only one who
decided to become a professional musician.
Aurelio began playing at the
age of 7, singing and drumming at the temple choir in Plaplaya, a small
Garifuna village of 100 families in Honduras. In 1984 he moved to La
Ceiba, Honduras. "I've lived here since then. I have been very fortunate
to have learned so much of my traditions and culture from my parents,
unfortunately many young people now don't even speak the language."
Like most Paranderos, Aurelio sees music as a way to express feelings,
and confront problems. "We write a song when we have a problem with
another member of the community, instead of confronting that person and
pick a fight, we will write him a song and even make fun of him."
"I'm one of the very few Paranderos of my generation who writes
conscious lyrics dealing with social problems that face our communities.
music is very important for the Garifuna people, we probably consume more
music than food. through songs we can learn about our problems and find
ways to improve."
Andy Palacio (Track 6)
Andy Palacio isn't a Parandero, he is Belize's top Punta Rocker. He is
constantly touring, and often does Punta Rock versions of Paranda songs.
On his album "Keimoun", he did a Punta cover of Paul Nabor's "Nabi". He
joined Aurelio Martinez on Track 6. Palacio says, "This is endangered
culture. This is why I feel so close to it. To be able to make a
contribution and to able to influence the next generation. It was very
emotional for me."
Aurelio Martinez sums up the experience of these sessions:
"It was a great experience to participate in this record. I feel very
proud to be in the same album with such great Paranderos. And in a
symbolic way I feel like they are passing me the torch to carry on the
tradition. To me this is more than a Grammy."
-- Notes by Dan Rosenberg, 1999
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