Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Garifuna Music

The desire of the Garifunas to reconnect with St Vincent has been demonstrated over the years by the re-enactment of the exile of the Garifunas from St. Vincent and their arrival to Central America, as part of the Garifuna Settlement Day festivities celebrated on April 12thin Honduras, November 19thin Belize, where it has been celebrated since 1941 in Stan Creek (Dangriga) but observed nationally as a public and bank holiday across Belize since 1977; November 26thIn Livingston (Labuga), Guatemala and while the exact date of their arrival in Nicaragua is still not certain, since1994 the Garifunas have celebrated November 19 as Garifuna Day.[1]Furthermore, in 1861, the religious leader Juan Sambola founded the first permanent Garífuna village on the western shores of Pearl Lagoon, north of Bluefields in Nicaragua, baptizing it with the historic name of San Vicente (St. Vincent).[2]

This desire has been romanticized in songs such as the classic “Yurumein”, which is
recognized as the national anthem of the Garifuna Nation and the best interpretation in my opinion is by Aurelio Martinez in his now classic CD Lita Ariran. During an interview in 1996, the late Andy Palacio was interviewed and asked, “Your song “Keimoun Yurumein,” which moves between English and your language—it sounds quite
celebratory to me. To which he responded, “Keimoun Yurumein,” simply put, means “Let’s go to St. Vincent.” There is a deeper meaning though. It is about satisfying that Garifuna nostalgia for our original homeland. Hence I wrote: The voice of my ancestors. Calling calling. From the land of my forefathers. Calling calling. Keimoun Yurumein!”[3]

To paraphrase a great Belizean writer, in an existence parallel to Alex Haley's Roots,
212 years later we are returning to our immortalized St. Vincent, the place songs and
stories had told us was our home by birth right. St. Vincent is no longer a legend,
existing only in the dying words of elders, being passed on to the young, but very much a tangible reality with a tragic lesson of culture lost.[4]

[1]Chavarría, Luis G. Sons/Daughters of Africa Celebrate Their Festival Day, El Nuevo Diario,
November 10, 1999
[2]Idiáquez, José, The Walagallo: Heart of the Garifuna World, Revista Envio # 145, August 1993
[3]Cozier, Christopher, Bomb Magazine, Issue 94 Winter 2006
[4]Dreddi, Garifuna Cultural Survival, Belizean Journeys