Garifuna International Band
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Garifuna International Band

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"Emancipation Highlights" - Trinidad Guardian, '06

"Emancipation Highlights" - Trinidad News Day

"A Celebration of the Human Spirit"

Wayne Bowman

Saturday, July 29th 2006

Trinidad and Tobago should, as a nation, celebrate Emancipation regardless of ethnic heritage, because it is a celebration of the human spirit and man's determination to triumph and, just as well, his capacity for success against any level of human travail.

This was the sentiment expressed by Minister of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs, Joan Yuille-Williams, as she delivered the feature address at Thursday's official opening of the Lidj Yasu Omowale Village at the Hasely Crawford Stadium for Emancipation celebrations 2006.

Yuille-Williams said citizens must appreciate the struggles of those courageous men and women who fought against chattel slavery, understanding that it is important to celebrate abolition here in Trinidad and Tobago, where so many races and ethnic groups are represented.

"The role of our emancipation celebrations is not merely to enliven us through entertainment, but also, and far more importantly, to enlighten us through knowledge and information, and the exploration of the experiences and culture of the African-descended in our population," she said.

"But there are positive implications for all in the society. It is important that we celebrate emancipation. It is the celebration of the human struggle. It is the celebration of the human spirit. And it is important to acknowledge and cherish those signal and defining moments in our history when, out of the epic struggle of the Afro-descended community, and the strident efforts of the courageous and enlightened everywhere, mankind was able to put a stop to the worst excesses in human exploitation and degradation, thereby ensuring that at no point in the future would slavery be tolerated and encouraged."

The Lidj Omowale Village is open daily until Emancipation Day on Tuesday, when the venue will host a day-long rally featuring performances by cultural groups from across Trinidad and Tobago.

Thursday's opening included a performance by a Venezuelan group known as Tambore Primo, which performed Afro-Latin music as well as salsa that got members of the audience dancing in their seats.

Coming from Belize via New York was the Garifuna International Band, which comprises descendants of the Garifune or Black Caribs from the island of St Vincent.

Garifuna International delivered a repertoire of punta music, which is a blend of French, African, European and Caribbean rhythms and melodies.

Also performing at the opening were the Signal Hill Alumni Choir, National Steel Orchestra, Hands Of Rhythm Percussion Ensemble, Brian London, Brother Valentino, Luta and others.

- Trinidad Express

"Garifunas Music"

The International Garifuna Band, with Paula Castillo and Omar ôBabakle Suaso, is a friendly merger of the versatile and dynamic Garifuna Stars Band and the Punta Rock Souljahs (Isanigu), both Bronx-based. Garifuna Stars specializes in a quieter tone of Punta Rock, which insinuates itself in the marrow of the bones. Isanigu are road-hardened, melody masters.
Garifuna is the name of the free people (meaning they were never enslaved, also called ômaroonsö elsewhere) who inhabit the Atlantic Coast of Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, and parts of Nicaragua, descendants of Africans and Carib-Arawaks who were exiled from their ancestral homeland of St. Vincent to Central America in 1797.

Punta is one specific traditional Garifuna rhythm. Aside from Punta, other Garifuna rhythms are Paranda, Chicanare, Culiu, Wanarague, Bihamanadi, and others. Dances include Punta, Cumbia, Sambay, Culiou, Paranda, Chicanare, Wanaragua and others. Instruments include Garifuna drums (or garawon), turtle and conch shells, maracas, bass, keyboards, guitar, and drums.

Punta rock, a term which has no association with the genre known as rock, but is meant to ôrockö listeners, is the music of a tiny minority and it has become the contemporary musical expression of all Central America, claiming its rightful place along with jazz, blues, son, salsa, samba, cumbia, merengue, tango, condombe, candomble, calypso, gospel, reggae, rap, hip-hop and other musical styles.

- Kennedy Center

"The Other Caribbean"

French Guiana singer/songwriter Chris Combette discusses his music. Also covered: Garifuna music from Belize's International Garifuna Band, field recordings from the French Antilles, steel pan maestro Andy Narell, and a handful of soca collections.

- The Beat Magazine


Still working on that hot first release.



THE INTERNATIONAL GARIFUNA BAND is a combination of the most versatile & dynamic Garifuna musicians in them United States. They are the former members of the well seasoned Punta Rock Souljahs along with veteran musicians from Afro-Central America who now reside in the U.S. Their combined musical experience puts the first on the lips of top Punta rocker soloist as Andy Palacio, Mohobub Flores, Chico Ramos, Aurelio Martinez, Our lead vocalists are "Ideal" Castillo from Guatemala and Felix Gamboa, former lead dancer & singer for the venerable Wanichigu Dance Company from Honduras. Out of Guatemala Chocola Alvarez the number one Garifuna Percussionist, Chente Avila on maracas & background vocals, Elmer Norales on turtle shells & vocals. Our band leader Roy Martinez, holds down the keyboards, Jose "Peche" Ballesteros on drums, Pablo "Pickett" Fernandez on bass and Kike Guity on congas. Our set-your-feet on fire dance Miriam Suazo former lead dancer for the Wanichigu Dance Company all make up the soul stirring International Garifuna Band. Traditional Punta, Punta Rock Paranda Sambey, Cumbia and Wanaragu are teh band's specialties.