Music and Art in Belize
Belize’s art and music scene is impressive. There are museums, performing art centers, and live music venues to visit, as well as a wide selection of intricate handicrafts to purchase. Familiarizing yourself with the art of Belize will give you further insight into the culture and tradition of this wonderful country.
Although the country is small, several Belizean artists are well known throughout the world. This includes Benjamin Nicholas, Carolyn Carr, Gilvano Swasey, Michael Gordon, and Pen Cayetano. These artists are a good place to start when looking into Belizean art, although there are many other talented Belizean artists as well.
Belize City has the most dynamic artistic offerings in the country. While here, you can visit the House of Culture, the Museum of Belize, the Bliss Centre for Performing Arts, and the Belize Centre for Art Education. Touring any of these places will be informative and interesting.
You’ll come across a range of handicrafts while traveling in Belize. Examples include textiles, baskets, and even slate carvings. Slate carving was practiced by the Maya and has been recently resurrected by artisans across Belize. Mennonite wooden furniture is also available here.
Belizean music is strongly influenced by African and Caribbean sounds, although modern music from Latin America and North America also exert influences here. You’re likely to encounter punta at some point during your trip. This musical style is very popular and incorporates Garifuna rhythms with modern electronic styles. Andy Palacio, who died in 2008, was one of the best-known punta musicians.
A modern type of punta is related to a musical style called paranda, which incorporates traditional Garifuna instruments - like wood blocks and turtle shells - alongside acoustic guitars. Paul Nabor, from Punta Gorda, is a fabulous original paranda musician.
Brukdown is another unique Belizean sound. It came about during the 1800s, when workers in timber camps would use whatever was around them – coconuts, empty bottles, wooden blocks – to produce rhythm and pair it with guitars, banjos, and harmonica. Mr. Peters and his Boom and Chime are a group that’s representative of this sound.
Reggae is popular almost everywhere, and other musical influences can be heard throughout Belize as well. In the Cayo District, you’re likely to hear Latin instruments like xylophones and marimbas, while in southern Belize you may hear violins and Q’eqchi’ harps being played to Maya melodies. In the towns of Orange Walk and Corozal in northern Belize, you’ll come across Mexican musical influences.
Stonetree Records, a record company based in western Belize, has a wonderful collection of Belizean music. Albums from Stonetree are available online or in many gift shops throughout Belize.
To get a taste of the music of the people, be sure to book your trip during holidays and festivals, where music and dancing occur in the streets. It's also a great opportunity to politely gain exposure to Belize's religious practices.