MARCH 21st, The ELEVENTH Day of GARIFUNA American Heritage Month in New York (Hüngü Hüngü — Garifuna Dance and Rhythm)

Theatrical Presentation of the HüngüHüngü Garifuna Dance.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Theatrical Presentation of The HüngüHüngü Garifuna Dance by The Chief Joseph Chatoyer Folkloric Ballet of New York.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.   

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Central America / United States of America — MARCH 21st is the ELEVENTH Day of GARIFUNA American Heritage Month in New York.  Did you know that there are other Garifuna Dances out there besides the VERY popular Punta dance?  In this post, we will focus on the HüngüHüngü Garifuna Dance and Rhythm.

Theatrical Presentation of the HüngüHüngü Garifuna Dance.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Theatrical Presentation of the HüngüHüngü Garifuna Dance by The Chief Joseph Chatoyer Folkloric Ballet of New York. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Typically a circle or line dance danced at a Fedu (a celebration or feast) or during the Dügü or Chügü Ceremony.   When you see the dance, you generally see Garifuna women (and men) swaying from side to side.   In general, it’s a swaying from side to side.  The participants also sing in unison.

Theatrical Presentation of the HüngüHüngü Garifuna Dance.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Theatrical Presentation of the HüngüHüngü Garifuna Dance by The Chief Joseph Chatoyer Folkloric Ballet of New York. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Here is VIDEO of the HüngüHüngü Dance as presented by the pioneering 90s Garifuna Dance Company, Wanichigu Dance Group Inc. Wanichigu is “Our Culture” in the Garifuna Language.  Following the HüngüHüngü Dance is a demonstration of the Sambay Dance.

Garifuna Anthropologist Joseph O. Palacio defines the Dügü is a placatory ritual, conducted by a buyei, designed to propitiate those ancestors regarded as afflicting the living. 1

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You can also see this dance during a procession (when a number of people or vehicles are moving forward in an orderly fashion) especially at a ceremony, festival or funeral.

Theatrical Presentation of the HüngüHüngü Garifuna Dance by The Chief Joseph Chatoyer Garifuna Folkloric Ballet of New York.   Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Theatrical Presentation of the HüngüHüngü Garifuna Dance by The Chief Joseph Chatoyer Garifuna Folkloric Ballet of New York. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

At it’s root, you usually find that two drums are used In the playing of Garifuna rhythms, The Primero drum and The Segundo drum.  The Primero drum has a lighter sound and usually accents, variations and improvisations are played on this drum.  The Primero sound it makes changes depending on the activity of the dancers and changes in the rhythms from fellow drummers.

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The Segundo drum serves as a bass drum which has a heavier sound.  The Segundo drum also sets the tempo of the rhythm.  The segundo drum is often referred to as expressing the heartbeat of all the Garifuna rhythms.

Below is a video by Ronald Raymond McDonald of The Warasa Garifuna Drum School in Belize.  Here, you can HEAR this unique Garifuna rhythm.

Below is the song “Tagarigu Nanigui” (“Heartache” in the Garifuna Language) from the Lita Ariran album “Songs of the Garifuna”, which was released by JVC for their JVC World Sounds series in 1994.  This traditional Garifuna song expresses the pointlessness of the criminal life and its inevitable conclusion in death.

Pay close attention to the maracas and the drumming on the segundo / libiama / second drum as it’s steady cadence along with variances on the primero / furumieti / first drum illustrate the HüngüHüngü rhythm.

Below is the international Garifuna anthem, “Yurumey” / “Yurumein” the Garifuna name for St. Vincent Island, the ancestral home of the Garifuna people.  The lyrics of this traditional Garifuna song describe the arrival of the Garifuna people of Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Nicaragua from the island of St. Vincent, their ancestral homeland.

Pay close attention to the maracas and the drumming on the segundo / libiama / second drum as it’s steady cadence along with variances on the primero / furumieti / first drum illustrate the HüngüHüngü rhythm.

Here are three videos from a FEDU in 2012 in the Bronx for the patron saint of the Garifuna Village of Corozal, Honduras.  Here you see the dancing and performing of the HüngüHüngü dance and rhythm.  Also, THREE drums are used here, as opposed to the typical two garoun drum set-up.

 

About Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York

Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York (March 11th through April 12th) is designed to reflect on and observe the occasion of the Garifuna people (then known as Black Caribs) being kicked out of their ancestral land of St. Vincent Island on March 11th 1797 to their arrival in Central America on April 12th 1797.  The dates reference the period of time where the Garifuna voyage took place between their ancestral land and their new place of residence, where a new life was forced upon them.

According to a press release from the non-profit organization the Garifuna Coalition USA Inc, Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York also,

“celebrates the great contributions of Garífuna-Americans to the fabric of New York City and New York State, and pays tribute to the common culture and bonds of friendship that unite the United States and the Garífuna’s countries of origin (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras Nicaragua and St Vincent and the Grenadines.)”.

The Garifuna Coalition adds, “New York City is home to the largest Garífuna Community outside of Central America!  However, although Garífunas have been migrating here in search of a better life since the 1930s; the community was virtually obscured until the Happy Land Social Club fire on March 25th, 1990.”  Most of the victims of that tragedy were Honduran, many were of Garifuna descent 2.

Logo for 2014 Garifuna American Heritage Month.  Logo by Ivan Moreira.

Logo for 2014 Garifuna American Heritage Month. Logo by Ivan Moreira.

Overall, the idea is to pay tribute to the survival and resiliency of the Garifuna people and also highlight the contributions made by Garifunas to the state of New York and the United States of America.  Also, this as well as other activities taking place in New York during Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York are designed to further visibility of the Garifuna ethnic group to the general populace of New York City.

ABOUT The Garifuna People

The Garifuna people are people of African descent (in other words, Black people) whose ancestry can be traced to Africans mixing with Carib Indians and Arawak Indians on the Eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent. From this fusion of race and ethnicities in St. Vincent Island, a distinct culture and language arose.  They are noted for being one of the few (only?) peoples of African descent (again, in other words, Black people) in the Americas to have maintained aspects of their ancestral culture and full use of their ancestral language for everyday use over the course of hundreds of years.

After being defeated in war with the British on St. Vincent in 1796; 1004 men, 1779 women and 1,555 children for a total of 4,338 people (mostly Black Caribs, as the Garifuna people were then known) were captured and taken to Baliceaux, a small island, a rock, basically, off the coast of St. Vincent.  This took place from July 1796 through February/March 1797.  About 2,000 Garifunas died of a mysterious and very infectious fever while living on Baliceaux awaiting their fate.  3

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In early March 1797, the remaining Garifunas were loaded onto the HMS Experiment and other ships.  Once they were rounded up, the convoy were taken to a Bequia, which is another island off the coast of St. Vincent. They proceeded to go to Grenada to get water, then Jamaica for refueling, then finally Roatan, Honduras, arriving on April 12th 1797.

Finding much of Roatan unliveable, the Garifuna people petitioned officials representing Spain and it’s government (which controlled much of Central America at the time) to be allowed to move to the Honduran mainland.  Upon being allowed to move to the Honduran mainland, namely the port town of Trujillo, Honduras in May 1797; the Garifunas settled many towns and villages along the Caribbean coast of Honduras.  They also migrated to the neighboring countries of Guatemala, Belize (then known as British Honduras) and Nicaragua over the years.  Finally, Garifuna People have also migrated to the United States of America where generations have settled in cities like New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.  Despite their mainly Spanish surnames, their culture and history are distinct from other Afro-American and Latino ethnic groups and it’s important to keep that in mind.

If you find the BEING GARIFUNA Website helpful and useful, please DONATE.  Every dollar donated helps keep this website in operation.  Donations are accepted via the PAYPAL website so your potential donations are SAFE and SECURE.

March 21st, The ELEVENTH Day of GARIFUNA American Heritage Month in New York. Here is a Theatrical Presentation of The Garifuna HüngüHüngü Dance by The Chief Joseph Chatoyer Garifuna Folkloric Ballet of New York. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved

March 21st, The ELEVENTH Day of GARIFUNA American Heritage Month in New York. Here is a Theatrical Presentation of The Garifuna HüngüHüngü Dance by The Chief Joseph Chatoyer Garifuna Folkloric Ballet of New York. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved

 

Notes:

  1. Joseph O. Palacio (Editor), “The Garifuna: A Nation Across Borders–Essays in Social Anthropology”. — Notes on Garifuna words and expressions. pg 252 (2006).
  2. Edna Negron, “Club Tragedy an Awakening for Garifuna”, New York Newsday, Sunday, August 18th 1991.
  3. Nancie L Gonzalez, “Sojourners of The Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna” pgs 21-23

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