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Paranda: Living Music Nearing Extinction

paranda musician

No music relaxes me like Paranda, except perhaps the Gipsy Kings. Something so organic. So natural. As natural as sitting on the banks of a muddy river in the jungle, watching the sun set over the palm trees. As natural as a little village with dirty children running around, kicking a can or playing some other game while the old men with dark faces like gnarled oak sit idly by, smoking and contemplating something infinitely beyond my comprehension.

According to Dan Rosenberg:

“Centuries ago, a slave ship crashed near the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. These African men and women, and some escaped slaves from nearby islands (and even some Pre-Columbian Africans living in the Caribbean) lived in St. Vincent for some generations. They mixed with native Carib and Arawak Indians. The Garifuna language is a mix of African tongues and Carib, and to this day, is one of the only languages spoken by Africans in the Americas that is not derived from a European language.

In March, 1797, after a war over land (to make room for more tobacco and sugar cane plantations), the British exiled the entire Garifuna population from St. Vincent to Honduras. Half of the 4,000 Garifuna died in the passage. Since then, the Garifuna spread along the Caribbean coast of Central America, and if you travel in the region, you can find small Garifuna villages in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and a few in Nicaragua.

Visiting Belizean Garifuna coastal villages like Dangriga and Hopkins feels like Africa. The scent of coconut milk, seafood, rice and beans is everywhere. In the evenings, the local bars are filled with Punta Rock, a mix of Garifuna traditional drumming rhythms and pop music that has swept the country to such an extent that Punta has become the national music of Belize. In the churches, you can hear drumming. The Garifuna religion, like the language, is a mix of African and Carib, combining the communication of ancestral spirits, living in harmony with nature, and the use of drums during religious ceremonies.

Paranda is both a Garifuna rhythm and a genre of music. The basic rhythm can be heard in Garifuna traditional drumming styles that date all the way back to St. Vincent and West Africa. The Paranda became a genre itself in the 19th century, shortly after the Garifuna arrived in Honduras. It was there where they first encountered Latin music, and incorporated the acoustic guitar, and a touch of Latin and Spanish rhythms into the music. The Paranda reached its prominence in the early part of the 20th century, and has changed little since. Its instrumentation is totally acoustic, ‘Garifuna Unplugged’: large wooden Garifuna drums called ‘Primero’ and ‘Segunda’, shakers, scrapers, turtle shell percussion, and acoustic guitar.”

Contributing Garifuna musicians include Junie Aranda, Paul Nabor, Jursino Cayetano, Aurelio Martinez, Andy Palacio, Lugua Centeno, Bugu X Jones, Simon Moreira, Gabaga Williams, and others. The producers of this album travelled through and recorded in Garifuna (African) villages in Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Sadly, only a few artists like Paul Nabor still live to share this beautiful music. This album was recorded in part to encourage further generations to pick up the art of the Paranderos. When you are recommended beautiful music full of history and rich in culture, you would be a fool not to stop and investigate for yourself. Paranda is available in Virgin Megastores and online atAmazon. If you want more information about the Paranda project or other Garifuna artists and recordings, visit www.stonestreetrecords.com and www.cafeint.com.

This album was the first album in the “world music” genre that I ever purchased. It holds a special place in my collection because it was that first step into a new world of music. I had begun to love the listening stations at Virgin Megastore which always contained at least one world music station featuring different artists each month. No friend or commercial led me to them. I happened across them, listened, enjoyed, and brought them home to fill my speakers for weeks without interruption.

Some people don’t listen to music unless they can understand the words being sung. I enjoy both for different reasons. American and British songs are great for when I want to sing at the top of my lungs or set some types of moods. But world music is untouchable when it comes to background music that lifts the spirit. I can suddenly feel pure and carefree, as though standing on a bright, majestic African plain, eyes resting on the wind blown grass. World music has the power to transport the mind to places the body is not presently able to reach. Call it a vacation in a box. I can hear the ocean’s waves, the rushing rivers, the screeching eagles, the melodic call to prayer.

I guess you could say that world music was my first step toward defining the world traveler deep within. I love experiencing cultures. I love music from all nations. I have traveled to a few places, but my heart is set on the nations of the earth. There is so much beauty out there. I want to catch a glimpse of it everywhere I go.

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