Voices from the Caribbean: Umalali

When I hear “Caribbean” I visualise glamorous holidays, palm trees and cruise ships but there’s so much more to it. Today we have been enjoying some music from this part of the world, specifically women of Garifuna heritage.

The history of these people is extraordinary — they’re descended from shipwrecked African slaves — but the culture is at risk due to economic pressures and an oral tradition. The language, dance, and music of the Garifuna has been named by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Belize.

Garifuna Umalali Women Project Belize Stonetree

Umalali (which means “voice” in the Garifuna language) was initiated by Ivan Duran of Stonetree Records. The Garifuna Women’s Project sought to capture some of the unique sounds of this matrilocal society by working with its cultural caretakers: the women.

You can hear the many influences in this music and feel the emotion behind the voices, as many of these songs speak of hardship and a precarious existence.

(The photographs in the CD booklet shown above were taken by Katia Paradis and Sarah Weeden).

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