MYSTERY and MAGIC of Sacred Garifuna Folk Songs To Be Explored on THURSDAY March 12th 2015 in Manhattan

 

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New York, New York — The Mystery and Magic of Sacred Garifuna Music will be explored on THURSDAY, March 12th 2015 at the City Lore Gallery in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  Garifuna Singer Musician James Lovell and Garifuna Musical Group Libaña Marasa will both take part in this unique event taking place during 2015 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York (March 11th through April 12th).

Sponsored by City Lore, The Endangered Language Alliance and Bowery Arts + Science, this event is entitled, “Documenting Traditional Garifuna Song in NYC and Belize” and is part of City Lore’s, “Mother Tongues: Endangered Languages in NYC and Beyond” exhibit, which opened on January 29th 2015 and lasts through April 16th 2015.

Documenting Traditional Garifuna Song in NYC and Belize.

Documenting Traditional Garifuna Song in NYC and Belize.

While the Garifuna Genre of Punta Rock music has received much attention over the last twenty-five years, many of it’s folk music is rarely performed.  This event will showcase one of those, the arumahani, a form of acappella music traditionally sung by men.

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In this event, “Documenting Traditional Garifuna Song in NYC and Belize”; Garifuna Singer Musician, Garifuna musical group, Libaña Marasa (“The Grandchildren of Marasa” in the Garifuna Language) will be performing arumahani songs from Honduras.

James Lovell; alongside Endangered Language Alliance Executive Director, Daniel Kaufman will also present videos from their recent fieldwork in Belize documenting this genre of music.  NOTE: James Lovell and Daniel Kaufman of the Endangered Language Alliance were featured in the New York Times in April 2010.  1

Garifuna Singer Musician James Lovell on the right at a 2013 Fundraiser for the Yugacure (Yurumein Garifuna Cultural Retrieval) Organization.  It took place at the Headquarters of the Endangered Language Alliance.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Garifuna Singer Musician James Lovell on the right at a 2013 Fundraiser for the Yugacure (Yurumein Garifuna Cultural Retrieval) Organization. It took place at the Headquarters of the Endangered Language Alliance. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Arumahani songs are songs of mourning and rememberance sung acapella style by men during the sacred Garifuna ritual of Dügü, which takes place once a loved one passes away.  The women’s equivalent is called abaimahani.  Below is video of an arumahani demonstration during the 2012 Miss Garifuna USA Cultural Pageant.  Here, a group of both Garifuna men and women sing acapella style TOGETHER. 

This Documenting Traditional Garifuna Song in NYC and Belize will take place on THURSDAY, March 12th 2015 at 7pm at the City Lore Gallery.  Admission is $10 and tickets can be bought at the City Lore website.

City Lore Gallery

56 E. 1st Street (Between 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue)

New York, NY 10003

(212) 529-1955

Subway: F Train to 2nd Ave Subway Stop

About James Lovell

James Lovell was born in the village of Mango Creek, but grew up in Dangriga Town, Belize. After graduating from Ecumenical High School in Dangriga Town, James joined the Belize Police Force Band, where he learned to play several instruments such as the guitar, bass guitar, clarinet, euphonium saxophone and keyboards, and took advanced correspondence courses from the Royal School of Music. He learned to read and write music and to arrange musical compositions.

In 1990, James migrated to the United States. In June 1995, James produced and released his first professional CD album entitled Cabasan Numari. James has also produced and recorded three albums and is presently working on a bilingual children nursery rhymes album. In 2005 and 2008, he facilitated “Habinaha Garinagu” (Dance Garifuna) in Dangriga Belize, sponsored by the National Garifuna Council. He has also been the Vice President and Musical Director for “Illagulei,” a Garifuna performing arts company.

Garifuna Singer Musician and Educator, Belizean Garifuna Man James Lovell.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Garifuna Singer Musician and Educator, Belizean Garifuna Man James Lovell. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Recently James was instrumental in the Garifuna Language and Culture program through “YuGaCuRe” (Yurumein Garifuna Cultural Retrieval Program), that is reclaiming and teaching the language and culture to children and adults in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which is the ancestral homeland of the Garifuna.

Under the leadership and sponsorship of the National Garifuna Council of Belize, he obtained two grants, the first from the World Bank for Indigenous People Fund in 2005, and the second from UNESCO in 2008, both which led James to be hired to facilitate the Garifuna Dance and Music Workshop in Dangriga Town, Belize.

About Libaña Marasa

Libana Marasa (“Grandchildren of Marasa” in the Garifuna Language), are a Garifuna musical group that was founded by Parandero Marcelino “Don Marasa” Fernandez.

Garifuna Musical Group Libaña Marasa at the 2011 Honduran and Central American Festival at Crotona Park in the Bronx.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Garifuna Musical Group Libaña Marasa at the 2011 Honduran and Central American Festival at Crotona Park in the Bronx. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Born in Stan Creek Belize in Belize in 1920, Don Marasa stayed there until the age of 8, when his family moved to Honduras.  His grandchildren, headed by Garifuna Musician Emilio Nunez (who is from Santa Fe, Honduras) carry on his Garifuna musical tradition.

About Daniel Kaufman and The Endangered Language Alliance

 

Daniel Kaufman is a linguist focused on languages of the Austronesian family for the last decade and a half, publishing on the phonology, morphology and syntax of Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, as well as carrying out fieldwork on various other languages of the Philippines and Indonesia. More recently, he has focused on several languages of the Nilo-Saharan and Arawakan families spoken by immigrant communities in his native New York City. He is currently an adjunct professor in the CUNY Graduate Center where he has incorporated a fieldwork component into courses on morphology, syntax and phonology. In 2008, he founded ELA (originally the Urban Fieldstation for Linguistic Research), with the purpose of initiating long-term language projects in cooperation with immigrant communities in NYC and local linguistics students.  2

The Endangered Language Alliance (ELA) is an independent non-profit based in New York City and the only organization in the world focused on the immense linguistic diversity of urban areas. Many of the New York area’s estimated 800 languages are highly endangered; for many, New York is a major center. ELA documents and describes underdescribed and endangered languages, educating a larger public and collaborating with communities.  3

About City Lore

Founded in 1986, City Lore is a New York City-based cultural heritage/folklife non-profit organization.  This non-profit organization offers educational programs, workshops and events to recognize grassroots cultures and ensure their living legacy.  City Lore promotes, presents and works to preserve the traditional arts of local and international cultures as represented by the many different ethnic groups who live in New York City.

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 4.

2015 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York. (March 11th through April 12th). Logo by Ivan Moreira.

2015 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York. (March 11th through April 12th). 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.  5

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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.

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.

Documenting Traditional Garifuna Song in NYC and Belize Event on THURSDAY, March 12th 2015 featuring Garifuna Singer Musician James Lovell and Garifuna Musical Group Libaña Marasa.  Photos by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Documenting Traditional Garifuna Song in NYC and Belize Event on THURSDAY, March 12th 2015 featuring Garifuna Singer Musician James Lovell and Garifuna Musical Group Libaña Marasa. Photos by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Notes:

  1. Sam Roberts, “Listening To (And Saving) The World’s Languages”, New York Times, April 28th 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/29/nyregion/29lost.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  2. http://elalliance.org/who/
  3. http://elalliance.org/
  4. Edna Negron, “Club Tragedy an Awakening for Garifuna”, New York Newsday, Sunday, August 18th 1991.
  5. Nancie L Gonzalez, “Sojourners of The Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna” pgs 21-23

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