As part of the November 19th Celebrations the town of Dangriga hosts an annual all night Punta Fest. From the minute I saw the first poster advertising this event I knew I had to be there. The concert was due to start at 5 pm and finish at 5 am the next day.
I have been promising to describe punta music so I may as well do that now before I go on to blog about the actual event. Punta is described as
ancestral rhythm and dance of the Garifuna people of Central America performed during celebrations or festive occasions with links to West Africa and an ancient rhythm called Bunda.
In recent years a new style of music has evolved from Punta and is known as Punta Rock:
Punta rock features a synthesis of electric instruments (drum machine, lead and bass guitars, and a keyboard), an acoustic drum set, and Garifuna drums and other indigenous instruments. Musically, the genre shows the influence of soca, salsa, reggae, rap, hip-hip, and other forms of Caribbean and urban-American popular music.
The name Punta also refers to a type of a dance and I have struggled to find a way to describe it in english but found this description. For the swahili speakers – Ni kama kucheza chakacha lakini bila kuimba ‘kata kata, kata mwanangu kata’.
I had heard Punta music in the clubs and watched a few bands to covers of punta rock music but seeing it live on stage being performed by big name stars such as Supa G was a whole new and amazing experience. The stage was a mix of electric guitars and african drums – and everyone seemed to be having fun. I don’t think I have been to any event and danced outside till sunrise.
As soon as the concert was over we headed to the sea side. It was 5 am and the streets were packed! There were drummers on every corner and the every shore-side ‘seat’ was taken as people waited for the main event – The re-enactment of the arrival of the Garifuna. At around 7 am, three boats sailed in to the sounds of drums. Unlike their first journey to Belize hundreds of years ago, these boats did not come in from very far and the mood on the boat and on the shore on this morning was certainly a lot happier than that of their ancestors but it I still found it incredibly moving.
Unfortunately the lack of sleep and all night punta dancing had begun to take its toll and I decided to catch a bus back to Belmopan and get some sleep….