Just like the Blues greats such as Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and Buddy Guy, Paranda musicians stir something deep inside. Paul Nabor’s Naguya Ne (I am Moving On) just seems to get more poignant and soulful with each listen, and the younger Aurelio Martinez is carrying on that soulful tradition.He’s an artist that stays true to the form yet is instantly recognisable for his own distinctive style. So it was a pleasure to hear that the Belize Tourism Board, aka the BTB, selected one of his songs, “Santo Negro”, as the backing track for its promotional video. Great decision I thought, as I sat back, closed my eyes and savoured it again. Yes, this evokes Belize to someone who knows and loves it, and is a wonderful introduction to the country for others.
But what we do find surprising is that it hasn’t yet taken the world by storm. Sure, anyone serious about world music has some Belizean music in their collection, and it continues to slowly but surely gain more listeners around the planet, but why Belize’s music is not more popular remains one of life’s great mysteries.
Belize would not be the Belize that we know and love if it wasn’t for the many contributions of the Garifuna, and their proud history if one of the most interesting and enduring sagas humanity has known, beginning with a fateful shipwreck off St Vincent’s Island in the Caribbean in the 1600s, when surviving African slaves made it to shore and mixed with the local Arawak, or Carib, population.