Hopkins is a Garifuna village. The Garifuna closely identify with their music. It is an important part of who they are and their culture. Their music style is known for its distinct drumming. The smaller drum is called the primero and the large one is called the segunda. The primero leads and the segunda follows. Drums are hand-made from local woods and tuned individually, covered with deer skin, and the drummer beats his until it becomes leather.
The traditional music is called piranda and punta. The late Andy Palacio is considered the “Elvis of Belize,” as he experienced world-wide acclaimed success in response to his music. His album, Watina, whom many consider his masterpiece, was originally recorded at Sandy Beach Women’s’ Cooperative in Hopkins. Like Elvis, Palacio died unexpectedly in 2008. Palacio was 47.
To continue in Palacio’s tradition, the Garifuna Collective keep the piranda music alive. Most of the members of the collective are from Hopkins. They have their own individual recording contracts in addition to their success with the Collective. Will and I are amazed that these successful musicians go tour the world and return to Hopkins without pretense. In the U.S., a musician of their stature would be found in ostentatious clothes, trying to draw attention, and with security guards keeping them from interacting closely with strangers. The Hopkins musicians are approachable, friendly, and are even known to have impromptu jam sessions.
Will and I were excited to go to Lloyd Augustine’s CD release party on the beach, on his family’s land, where his sister, Felicia, operates Queen Bean restaurant. They had large tents covering the beach and hundreds attended. Lloyd was also the featured artist at the Piranda Fest, where he began playing at 5am. (The evening started around 9pm.) Will and I walked out with him at 7am the next morning, all of us heading to Queen Bean.
C-Will comes back and performs as well. He played at Jess Flores memorial service in the park. We’ve seen him in concert, walking around the village, and simply hanging out with friends on the beach, enjoying a beer.