Escaping to Belize to devote ourselves to the drum

We’ll let the Lebeha Drummers drum us out of our week with the Garifuna….

In case this morning you woke up thinking, “I desperately need to escape my humdrum life, run away to Honduras or Belize and learn Garifuna drumming,” be assured that the Lebeha Drummers will gladly welcome youto their drumming center on the Caribbean coast. If you’re not leaving today at least you can take your kids to an All Around This World music class and drum drum along to “Our Story May Be Sad.”

Umalali making glorious Garifuna music

Make it happen, Umalali…!

One of the most inspiring concerts I’ve seen in recent years was a stunning show by Umalali: The Garifuna Women’s Project as part of Crossroads Music – Philadelphia at Calvary Center for Culture and Community. The ensemble is the result of a collaboration between  Belizean musician and producer, Ivan Duran, who spent over a decade collecting Garifuna women’s songs and stories, and Garifuna female performers who bring hundreds of years of Garifuna history onto stage when they perform. Asumming you’re not going to be in Belize or Honduras any time soon…if Umalali is so kind to play a concert near you, BE THERE.

We meet Andy Palacio and The Garifuna Collective

We start our week of Garifuna music with the best of the best — Andy Palacio.

This week in class we introduce ourselves to the Garifuna people of Central America, specifically of Belize and Honduras. The Garifuna are a distinct Afro-Caribbean group that originated in 1635 when a boat carrying African slaves shipwrecked off of the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. The survivors integrated into the Carib population and developed their own West African/Caribbean language and culture. Within two centuries the Garifuna had settled in several locations along the Central American coastline yet, unlike many cultures, maintained their own communities and never fully integrated into the Spanish-influenced mainstream. In this video meet the deeply-missed Andy Palacio of The Garifuna Collective, whose “Watina” helped bring Garifuna music to the international stage.

This week in class: HONDURAS

All Around This World map of Latin America featuring Honduras

This week in our online class for kids we travel to Honduras, where, about 1500 years ago the land was the site of a major Mayan kingdom known as Xukpi (Copán).  The Mayan population declined by about the year 900, but there were still non-Mayan inhabitants around when Columbus and other Spaniards landed in the early 16th century. In 1537 the warrior Lempira unified two hundred Native American tribes in an effort to expel the Spanish and made a strong stand at the fortress of Cerquín.  The Spanish captain invited Lempira to a peace conference, ordered a marksman to shoot him and then, after he fell to his end from the high cliffs, chased his warriors away.

Not good.

In our class we’ll tell a much more pleasant tale as we meet the Garifuna people learn about their unique history. As we do we will shake our bottoms while dancing the Punta. Our dancing will be technically embarrassing yet unrelentingly awesome. 

Colombian Champeta is “Creole Therapy”

Let Louis Towers remind us that Colombian music is more than Cumbia…

Champeta also known as “Creole Therapy”–is an highly danceable genre of Afro-Colombian music that finds its inspiration in the historical struggle between the Afro-Colombian population and Colombia’s European-descended upper classes. In the 1960s and ’70s Colombians facing poverty in and around the city of Cartagena blended African rhythms with Caribbean dance music and played this music–LOUDLY!–through speakers known as “picós” in public dance parties. These parties, which also came to be known as picós, served as an emotional release for struggling Colombians, who referred to the music played there–called “champeta” as a reference to the champeta machete used by workers in the fields–as “Creole Therapy.” The ruling class of Cartegena initially attempted to ban picós and critics have labeled champeta as “aggressive” and “tastless,” but Colombia’s youth continue to embrace the genre, alongside related Caribbean genres such as Reggaeton, as a form of class-conscious artistic expression. In this video, Louis Towers shows us why.

Come with me to Colombia

All Around This World map of South America featuring Colombia

This week’s online class takes us all the way to Colombia, a wonderfully complex, ethnically, culturally and geographically diverse country with a violent recent past.  Years of internal armed conflict have kept tourists away from Colombia, but over the last few years crime and civil strife have become less dominant and more outsiders are discovering the magical Colombia others have always known. BONUS: Come to class this week to explore three eras of CUMBIA.

Who do you love more…Julio or Olimpo?

As we wind down our week of exploring Ecuador I must ask, because everyone has an opinion — who is the best Ecuadorian vocalist — Julio Jaramillo or Olimpio Cardenas?

The international star Julio Jaramill0, revered for his boleros, pasillos and rancheras, may be more famous of the two. Still, the arguably more adept Olimpio Cardenas can give Julio a run for its Ecuadorian money (which also happens to be American money). See the two powerhouses square off head to head in this video. Enjoy!

Cheering up when we hear a Charango

Meet the many-stringed Andean “guitar….”

Since we’re focusing on Ecuador this week in class we must get ourselves in the mood by enjoying a performance on charango, a small and lively Andean “guitar.” This is a video of a guy showing off his chops by playing charango in a music store in La Paz, Bolivia. Does that mean this song is the Andean equivalent of “Stairway to Heaven?”