NEW YORK, USA -- Perhaps with the exception of Cuba, no other Latin American or Caribbean country as a whole is as noted for the multiplicity of its music and dance forms as the transnational Garifuna. Well known for its strong West African influence on the vigorous rhythm of drumming styles and dance forms, their music is also highly indicative of the African oral tradition of call and response patterns in songs, and allusions to the sacred or ancestor worship.
A traditional Garifuna band is generally composed of drums and call and response vocals following the Garifuna's West African heritage. Typical instruments include hollow log garawon drums, which involve the primera (lanigi Garawoun -- the heart of the drum); a tenor drum, which is also considered the heartbeat or heart of Garifuna music ensembles. Then the segunda, a counter-rhythmic drum, which acts to shadow the primera and tercera. Finally, there is the tercera or third drum that maintains the continuing bass line.
On Saturday, September 15, New York City will have an opportunity to experience the Music and Dance of the Garifunas, which have been recognized by UNESCO as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity, during the 2012 Garifuna Heritage Awards and Cultural Night -- A Central American Masterpiece!
It will feature a dynamic cultural stage production by the Afri-Garifuna Jazz Ensemble, J-Dove Dancers and fashion Models and the NYC Garifuna Dance Ensemble directed by Garifuna American Choreographers Mariano Martinez from J Dove Productions, and Felix Gamboa of the Chief Joseph Chatoyer Garifuna Folkloric Ballet of New York.
The NYC Garifuna Dance Ensemble is the result of an auditioning process launched in June. It is the combination of top notch Garifuna dancers from the various Garifuna Cultural Groups. The drum ensemble will be led by the legendary Garifuna drummer Oracio Alvarez “Chuguladi” Alvarez on primera (lanigi Garawoun), Weiner Leiva on Segunda, Rosendo Blanco on Tercera and Julio Avila on Maracas .
The production will celebrate the proclamation of the Garifuna Language, Dance and Music as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangibles Heritage of Humanity” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) as well as honour The Drama of King Shotaway, a play by William Henry Brown, which is recognized as the first black drama of the American theatre, and which has as its subject the 1795 Black Caribs defence of island of Saint Vincent, led by the Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer.