There are many things to love about Belize, and one of them is the music.
Brukdown, Punta rock, Paranda, Maya marimba, Garifuna and Creole drumming; those uniquely Belizean styles are as diverse and wonderful as Belize’s stunning landscapes.
So it was interesting to hear that the Garifuna Collective has been touring Canada with Ontario singer-songwriter Danny Michel, proving that you don’t need swaying palm trees and sand under your feet to enjoy those majestic sounds.
Michel and the eleven member Garifuna Collective have been touring on the back of “Black Birds Are Dancing Over Me”, a 2012 collaboration between Michel and the Garifuna Collective and appeared at the Winnipeg Folk Festival July 12, 13 and 14.
Released in Canada, the U.S. and Belize, “Black Birds Are Dancing Over Me” went on to earn a 2013 Juno nomination.
Apparently, Mr Michel was vacationing in Belize some 15 years ago when he first heard Garifuna music and fell in love with it, as you do.
Being a musician, he approached Ivan Duran, who we know as the Benque Viejo owner of Stonetree Records and producer of some excellent albums, including the work of the late, great Andy Palacio, the deeply rewarding “Paranda” featuring Paul Nabor and other Parranderos, and many others.
That encounter led to Michel meeting with the loosely formed Garifuna Collective, and his accounts of their first days of working together provide some humorous examples of mixing two very different approaches to making music.
But Michel soon learned his way around funky guitars and using turtle shells and donkey jawbones for percussion.
And they kept at it, merging those different, distinctive approaches and styles into something unique, and then touring the Great White North with a collection of some of the best Garifuna musicians around.
“They knew I wasn’t somebody who was just trying to capture their sound. They knew I respected them a lot. We do everything respectfully and we’re very cautious about how things look. It’s a beautiful friendship and a wonderful relationship,” Michel said.
We’re hoping that the Winnipeg festivals shows were recorded and are looking forward to hearing more from this Canadian-Belizean collaboration. In the meanwhile, we’ll content ourselves with pulling some of our favourites out of the Belizean music files.
As a side note, if you’re interested in Belizean music, check out the Stonetree Records catalogue – www.stonetreerecords.com. It covers the broad range of the different musical styles of Belize and is one-stop shopping for some of the most interesting music on the planet. You don’t need to be a professional musician to be knocked out by the diversity, talent and sheer joy that comes out of such a tiny country. It’s amazing, actually…