The Garifuna musical culture is one of the most interesting in the world of traditional music. The Garifunas are a crossbreeding of African, Central American and Caribbean peoples (including the indigenous Arawaks), and live in modern-day Belize. Those who know (and, necessarily, appreciate) the music of Andy Palacio, the great Garifuna artist, will know just how much this rhythmically African music is also wonderfully melodic. The Lebeha Drummers are a spectacular reminder of all these origins, but with a much stronger emphasis on the rhythmic, pulsating aspect of the music. This is virtuoso percussion, with a strong spirit of ritual, celebration and community participation. The garawoun and the sisiras, two types of traditional drums, are used to accompany the voices, which chant simple but engaging and surprisingly hymn-like melodies, like a sort of gospel from the Belizean lands. The repertoire is made up of traditional pieces as well as original compositions, demonstrating that this is not an art form stuck in a museum-like posture.
Garawouns are particularly interesting and original percussion instruments. These are drums of African origin, topped with animal skin and partly covered with strings (guitar strings for example), which create a continuous resonance, like a buzz, every time the instrument vibrates. Fascinating. It’s impossible not to be uplifted by the breath and energy that flow from this deeply bewitching album.
Lebeha is a cultural centre in Belize, founded in the early 2000s by Jabbar Lambey and Dorothy Pettersen to introduce young people in the region to the ancient art of percussion.