Farewell Paul Nabor: A Belize Music Legend
Belize lost a national treasure and we farewelled a wonderful friend this week with the passing of Paul Nabor, Garifuna parandero extraordinaire and one of the best cultural ambassadors Belize ever had.
Born in January 1928, Paul, known as Nabi to his many friends, packed more into his 86 years than most people get to experience in ten lifetimes, from growing up in a simple Garifuna village to captivating audiences the world over with his deeply soulful Paranda songs and a humanism that cut across all societal and cultural boundaries. Whether in Belize City, New York, Europe or Malaysia, Mr Nabor, often wearing a large cowboy hat, would appear on stage and within seconds have any audience, anywhere, in the palm of his hand. There was something about him…
Nabi was a musician, songwriter, a Garifuna Buyei, or healer, herbalist, sailor, craftsman, pugilist (the name Nabor comes from his boxing days), valued elder, and much more. Up to the end of his life he continued to fill his days fishing from dawn in a dugout dory he built himself, singing and playing his guitar and providing spiritual comfort and physical healing to the many people who sought him out at his temple in the Southern Belize town of Punta Gorda.
We’d sit for hours as Nabi recounted stories from an amazing life; being caught out at sea in gales and drifting for days, working in dense jungles, surviving jail in Guatemala, knocking down much bigger opponents in the ring, teaching himself guitar and playing villages and towns up and down the coast of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras before becoming recognised and playing to large audiences around the world.
He built his own homes, boats and instruments with hands that were rough and scarred but could still gently caress and create exquisite melodies on guitar.
Whatever Nabi did, he did with a grace and inimitable style that was all his own, and with a legendary strength combined with gentleness and hard won wisdom he was happy to share. He lived life to the fullest, and gave back in innumerable ways. Words can’t describe how much he was loved, and how much he’ll be missed.
But his music will be with us for a long time, and his legend and impact will only continue to grow in stature.
Just as with fellow Garifuna musician Andy Palacio, who preceded Nabi in passing, and with whom he played, recorded and toured, Paul Nabor changed Belizean music and brought it to a large international audience.
Along the way, he inspired countless Garifuna youths to pursue their dreams and celebrate their culture.
Paul died peacefully of natural causes, and will be honoured by the government and people of Belize with an official funeral next week.