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    Punta Rock | by Andy Palacio
What is Puntarock?

It is safe to say that Punta Rock was born in the late 70’s in Belize through an experimental process led by Pen Cayetano and the Turtle Shell Band. Based in Dangriga Town in Southern Belize, Pen and his musician colleagues successfully fused the drumming and percussion with electric guitar licks and catchy lyrics. While many of the songs included the use of the Belizean lingua franca, Kriol, the prevailing language of Punta Rock was (and continues to be) Garifuna.

The trajectory of what is today called “Punta Rock” spans just over three decades and four countries. Often times, Punta Rock combines two up-tempo rhythms from Garifuna secular music – Punta and Paranda. The basic instrumentation generally included two hand beaten drums (bass and treble) maracas and a set of turtle shells. These were embellished with rhythm guitar strumming and call and response vocals over a driving beat. This is what was “christened” by Pen Cayetano as “Punta Rock”. It was meant to rock you! Mohobub Flores was one of the pioneers of the genre, as a member of the Turtle Shell Band. He has since pursued a solo career and continues to record and perform in his distinctive “roots and culture” style.

Dangriga-based Sounds Incorporated took the genre to another level when they acquired a set of electronic equipment including synthesizers, samplers, electronic drum kit and a powerful PA system. With this kind of hardware in the mid eighties, they took the sound and established national recognition for themselves as a band as well as for the music in its own right. Chico Ramos was the drummer and one of the lead vocalists of Sounds Incorporated. Since then, he has gone on to record and perform as a solo artist, turning out a string of hits over the past two decades.

Even as bands proceeded to find their place on the Belizean music scene, individual artistes emerged and made their presence felt. Today, Punta Rock as an art form remains vibrant, diverse and dynamic and Punta Paradise reflects these three characteristics accurately. As a band, Ügüraü began its journey in Los Angeles. However, its success really came when the equipment was shipped to Dangriga and a new set of musicians was recruited. They soon became the most sought after backing band for the leading Punta Rock artistes.

Punta Rebels, at the turn of the Millenium, were the undisputed monsters of Punta Rock. The sported the dynamic trio on the front line, which included Lloyd Augustine, “Reckless” Flores and “Supa G” Martinez. It was clear that Punta Rebels were destined for Punta Rock royalty but the band’s demise in the early 2000’s paved the way for active solo careers for the flamboyant “Supa G” as well as the duo, “Lloyd and Reckless”.

Griga Boyz took over where Punta Rebels left off, creating mass hysteria among a younger generation of Punta Rock fans. Their reputation was boosted by their collaboration with Los Angeles based Aziatic, who has emerged as one of Punta Rock’s greatest innovators, incorporating the use of video clips for greater impact.

While Punta Rock may have come to light in Belize, the role of the diasporic Belizean community has been significant. There was a demand for the genre Belizean musicians in the area felt obliged to satisfy. Dayann Ellis aka “Nuru” was the former guitarist of the now defunct “Sound City Band” from Dangriga. After migrating to the U.S. he joined forces with other Central American musicians and formed “Punta Cartel”, whose style reflects the Caribbean flavour of Belize and the Latin flavours of Honduras and Guatemala.

The influence of Guatemala and Honduras on Punta Rock is most noteworthy. From its early beginnings, there was an audience for Punta Rock in the Garifuna communities along the Caribbean coast of Central America. Recordings of Belizean Punta Rockers such as Dangriga’s prolific Titiman Flores found their way into Honduras and Guatemala and became a source of inspiration to local musicians who successfully gave it their own twist. Variations in language regionalisms, instrumentation and tempos expanded the genre through the contributions of the likes of Guatemala’s Paula Castillo and Aurelio Martinez from Honduras. There are now several recognized bands and solo artistes from both countries including many who are based in the U.S.A.

Punta Rock knows no limits. From jam sessions in the rural communities of Belize to major international festivals in Europe and Asia, the journey continues. Belize’s Andy Palacio has helped to introduce the music into the international arena through print, radio and television and as the Punta Rock family grows bigger, so does its strength and energy. It is only a matter of time before the whole world recognizes that Punta rocks!
 

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