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Canti & Musica - Anthologie de chants et musique profanes
Ocora - 2011

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Publication  : Roots World
Auteur  : Michael Stone
Titre  : Wabaruagun Ensemble
Honduras : Songs of the Black Caribs
Ocora Radio France

The African-Amerindian Garifuna of Caribbean Central America represent one of few groups to effectively resist enslavement during the European colonial era. A resolute attitude of self-preservation conferred coherence in terms of language, kinship, subsistence patterns and other distinctive cultural features. Of course, the lived experience of economic development has impacted the Garifuna through the expansion of commercial agriculture (bananas, citrus, cattle ranching), tourism, and migration to find manual labor and service-sector employment throughout the region and in North America.

The resulting rapid changes in Garifuna communities since World War Two make this recording especially significant. A concerted effort to preserve and transmit the root forms of Garifuna music, song and dance, it documents the ancestor-oriented spirit possession practices at the core of Garifuna social life. Its cultural kinship is traceable to West Africa, similar to Cuban Santería, Haitian Vodun, Jamaican Revivalism, Carriacou’s Tombstone Feast and Big Drum funerary music, Trinidadian Shango, and Brazilian Candomblé and related forms.

Ethnomusicologist Cyril Vincensini contextualizes the music vis-à-vis Garifuna history, culture and spirituality, and delineates the main traditional forms. Women assume an elevated position in Garifuna spiritual life, and are the main singers, in a call-and-response format backed by men, who play a variety of locally made percussion and occasionally sing. Performance builds around a three-drum ensemble, along with tortoise shell percussion, rattles of Amerindian derivation, and the haunting caracol or conch-shell horn. This CD offers a critical point of comparison with a handful of documentary recordings made since the early 1950s, especially because the ensuing period has seen popular, amplified derivations of Garifuna music emerge in relation to secular dance. If you’ve wondered about punta rock, here are its expressive roots.

- Michael Stone