Artist Profiles: Rhodel “Rhodee” Castillo

The Garifuna Artist, Rhodel “Rhodee” Castillo grew up in the coastal Garifuna communities of Hopkins Village and Dangriga Town in Belize.

At a young age, Rhodee’s musical experience took a life of its own within the cradle of his Garifuna culture. He was inspired to be a singer and artist by family members, local musicians and performers. Musicians such as Joseph “Joe Thump” Castillo, Junior Aranda, Paul Nabor, “Gabaga” Williams, Perfecta “Mass” Ramirez, a grand aunt, and many others who performed for the community during the holiday seasons.

Throughout the early years, Rhodee continued to develop his own style with the early teachings of author and poet Marcella Lewis. With her guidance he performed with the Children’s Cultural Group at the Annual Garifuna Settlement Day Events.

Rhodee began performing with local bands, developing his musical talents, and in the meantime had began listening to international artists, Reggae poet Mutabaruka, Bob Marley, Isaac Hayes, Jimmy Cliff, Marvin Gaye, Alpha Blondy and many others.

After graduating from Belize College of Arts and Science and Technology (BELCAST), Rhodee emigrated to the United States in 1986, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Chicago State University, two years later. In 1994 he received a Master’s Degree from Roosevelt University, also in Chicago, all the time keeping his heart and mind close to his Garifuna roots.

Rhodee co-founded the Progressive Garifuna Alliance (PGA), an organization dedicated to the preservation and the advancement of the Garifuna Culture worldwide. Under Rhodee’s strong leadership, the PGA’s contributions to the Multi-Media Exhibit, The Garifuna Town Meetings, and the Annual Chicagoland Celebrations of Garifuna Culture, with proceeds benefiting the communities in Belize, have been very successful.

Rhodee also contributed as a consultant and artist to “The Garifuna Journey”, a documentary film by Andrea Leland and Kathy Berger. This film opens with Rhodee’s poem “Our Children Must Know”, demands that the truth to be told about the Garifuna history. The screening of this film at the Chicago Field Museum’s African History Series Program opened the eyes of many new admirers and brought a profound respect for the Garifuna history and lifestyle. “I want to educate the world about Garifuna.”

With a humanitarian concern for social issues affecting the world community and the Garifuna culture in particular, Rhodel “Rhodee” Castillo, created a compilation of music with a new innovated rhythm blended with a Garifuna tradition. In Exile is a mixture of Punta Rock, reggae beats and soul.

Discography:

In Exile

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Artist Profiles: Mohobub Flores

Percussionist and singer Mohobub Flores was born in Dandriga, cultural and musical capital of the Garifuna community of Belize and birthplace of Pen Cayetano, a musician and painter who founded the Turtle Shell Band in the 1980s and fused traditional Garifuna music to popularize what was called “punta rock.”

Mohobub started his career as a percussionist in 1979 and belongs to the generation responsible for projecting the music of this ethnic group onto the international scene.

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Artist Profiles: Pen Cayetano

Garifuna artist Delvin “Pen” Cayetano was born in 1954 in Dangriga, Belize. In the late 1970s, Pen Cayetano began to compose songs in the Garifuna language. He added the rhythm of the electric guitar to the traditional punta rhythm and created what is now known as punta-rock, the “rock” being the rhythm of the guitar.

Cayetano’s creation caught on quickly in Belize and from there spread to the other Central American countries.

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Artist Profiles: Garifuna All Star Band

The Garifuna All Star Band was a once in a lifetime collaboration of the biggest stars of Garifuna music, such as Andy Palacio and Paul Nabor from Belize. For the first time, these musicians from diverse backgrounds were assembled into a dynamic group to portray the vibrant aspects of traditional and modern Garifuna music and culture.

The Garifuna All Star Band performed a modern fusion of the punta, the highly danceable punta rock, as well as the intense semi-sacred Hungu-Hungu. Also in their music was the Latin bluesy parranda style.

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Artist Profiles: Paul Nabor

Paul Nabor

Alfonso Palacio, better known as Paul Nabor, was born January 26, 1928 in Punta Gorda, Belize. He was a legend in Parranda songs accompanied by drumming, percussion and acoustic guitar, very much like the Caribbean Calypso. He was also a sort of spiritual leader with the voice of age and wisdom.

Though nominally Roman Catholic, many Garifuna practice African spiritual traditions. The dugu, honouring the Garinagu ancestors is the most important tradition, where feasting, music and dance go on for days.

Paul Nabor was also the last living Parrandero in Punta Gorda, a small coastal village in southern Belize. He woke up at five every morning to fish in the Caribbean, and in the evenings he served as religious leader at the old wooden Garifuna temple before his gigs at the local club, which often ran nearly into the next morning.

Paul Nabor died October 22, 2014 in Punta Gorda, Belize.

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Flamenco Guitar Virtuoso José Antonio Rodríguez Returns to New York City

José Antonio Rodríguez – Photo by Athena Salvador

José Antonio Rodríguez, one the leading flamenco guitarists of his generation, is set to perform Saturday, March 3, 2018 at Roulette in Downtown Brooklyn.

A significant guitarist, renowned for his powerful and evocative renditions of contemporary flamenco, José Antonio Rodríguez has composed music for orchestras, dance companies, and film, participated in major projects with Paco de Lucía and Alejandro Sanz, and appeared in Carlos Saura’s Flamenco. For this show, he will be accompanied by Patricio Cámara “Pachi” on percussion, vocal and Paco Peña on bass.

José Antonio Rodríguez – Adiós Muchachos… (2016)

José Antonio Rodríguez’s most recent album is the critically acclaimed Adiós Muchachos.

This concert is part of The Flamenco Festival.

Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue at 3rd Avenue, Downtown Brooklyn

Tickets available at www.robertbrowningassociates.com

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Artist Profiles: David Obi

Guitarist, composer and singer, is considered the creator of a rhythm that revolutionized the traditional music of Belize, called “Kungo Music,” which brings together African rhythms, Jamaican reggae, the calypso and soca of Trinidad and Tobago, a certain European rock influence and the Kriol “Brukdown,” a very popular rhythm in Belize.

In the Orquesta de la Papaya he sings and plays the electric guitar and the boom and chime, a drum made of a hollow trunk and goatskin.

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Artist Profiles: Andy Palacio

Andy Palacio – Photo by Yuquilla

Andy Palacio was not only the most popular musician in Belize, he was also a serious music and cultural archivist with a deep commitment to preserving his unique Garifuna culture. Long a leading proponent of Garifuna popular music and a tireless advocate for the maintenance of the Garifuna language and traditions, Palacio was one of the founders of the Garifuna Collective.

Born and raised in the coastal village of Barranco, Palacio grew up listening to traditional Garifuna music as well as imported sounds coming over the radio from neighboring Honduras, Guatemala, the Caribbean and the United States. “Music was always a part of daily life,” said Palacio, “It was the soundtrack that we lived to.” Along with some of his peers, he joined local bands even while in high school and began developing his own voice, performing covers of popular Caribbean and Top 40 songs.

However, it was while working with a literacy project on Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast in 1980 and discovering that the Garifuna language and culture was steadily dying in that country, that a strong cultural awareness took hold and his approach to music became more defined. “I saw what had happened to my people in Nicaragua. The cultural erosion I saw there deeply affected my outlook,” he said, “and I definitely had to react to that reality.”

His reaction took the form of diving deeper into the language and rhythms of the Garifuna, a unique cultural blend of West African and Indigenous Carib and Arawak Indian language and heritage. “It was a conscious strategy. I felt that music was an excellent medium to preserve the culture. I saw it as a way of maintaining cultural pride and self-esteem, especially in young people.”

Palacio became a leading figure in a growing renaissance of young Garifuna intellectuals who were writing poetry and songs in their native language. He saw the emergence of an upbeat, popular dance form based on Garifuna rhythms that became known as punta rock and enthusiastically took part in developing the form.

Palacio began performing his own songs and gained stature as a musician and energetic Garifuna artist. In 1987, he was able to hone his skills after being invited to work in England with Cultural Partnerships Limited, a community arts organization.

Returning home to Belize with new skills and a four track recording system, he helped found Sunrise, an organization dedicated to preserving, documenting and distributing Belizean music. While his academic background and self-scholarship allowed for his on-going documentation of Garifuna culture through lyrics and music, it has been his exuberance as a performer that gained him world-wide recognition.

Since 1988, Andy Palacio gained enormous popularity both in Belize and abroad, playing before audiences in the Caribbean, the Americas and Europe and Asia. These include performances at the Transmusicales Encounters in France, Carifesta in Trinidad and Tobago and in St. Kitts-Nevis, World Music Expo Essen 2002, the Rainforest World Music Festival in Malaysia, Antillanse Feesten in Belgium, HeimatKlange in Germany, the World Traditional Performing Arts Festival in Japan and several others in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Colombia and the U.K.

Around 2002, Belizean producer/musician Ivan Duran, Palacio’s longtime collaborator and founder of Belize’s pioneer label Stonetree Records, convinced Palacio that he should focus on less commercial forms of Garifuna music and look more deeply into its soul and roots.

Duran and Palacio set out to create an all-star, multi-generational ensemble of some of the best Garifuna musicians from Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. The Collective united elder statesmen such as legendary Garifuna composer Paul Nabor, with young parranda star Aurelio Martinez from Honduras. Rather then focusing on danceable styles like punta rock, the Collective explores the more soulful side of Garifuna music, such as the Latin-influenced parranda as well as the punta and gunjei rhythms.

Andy Palacio – Watina

Watina, the debut album of Andy Palacio & the Garifuna Collective, was released in February of 2007 on the Cumbancha record label. The initial recording sessions for this exceptional album took place over a 4-month period in an improvised studio inside a thatch-roofed cabin by the sea in the small village of Hopkins, Belize. It was an informal environment, where the musicians spent many hours playing together late into the night, honing the arrangements of the songs that would eventually end up on this album.

While the traditions provided the inspiration, the musicians also added contemporary elements that helped give the songs relevance to their modern context. After the sessions, Ivan Duran worked tirelessly back at his studio to craft what is surely the pinnacle of Garifuna music production to date. “The idea of the collective has been a long time in the making,” said Palacio. “The chemistry of working with different Garifuna artists, not only within Belize but also from Guatemala and Honduras, was quite appealing and very satisfying to the soul.”

Andy Palacio lived in Belize where he worked in promoting Culture and the Arts. In December 2004, he was appointed Cultural Ambassador and Deputy Administrator of the National Institute of Culture and History.

Andy Palacio died January 19, 2008, of a heart stroke.

Discography:

Greatest Hits (1979)
Keimoun (beat on) (1995)
Til Da Mawnin (1997)
Wátina (Cumbancha, 2007)

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Artist Profiles: Zap Mama

Zap Mama – Photo by Jurgen Rogiers

Zap Mama was founded by Marie Daulne. Marie sings in French, Swahili and Wolof, harmonizing with Pygmy bushmen, and free styling in Brooklyn slang. Sound is truly her mother tongue.

Born in the former Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) to a Belgian father and a Zairian mother, Marie Daulne fled the country at the age of three when war broke out. After taking shelter with a tribe of Pygmies, her family eventually made their way to Brussels. There is no doubt that Marie experienced an uncommon Belgian upbringing.

While children from her school were practicing in front of a piano, Marie’s mother was introducing her to the sounds of the rainforest, teaching her the unearthly singing of the Central African Pygmies. But Marie preferred to listen to Stevie Wonder and early hip-hop from the United States: “Our mother would make us learn the polyphonic singing, but at the time we thought it was boring because it was traditional.” Instead, Marie developed her vocal skills through imitation of the sultry voice of Roberta Flack and the lip-smacking beats of the Fat Boys’ Human Beat Box.
An appreciation for the music that her mother tried to teach came later when Marie returned to Zaire at the age of 18. Hearing the music in its context and re-imagining her past, Marie found new meaning in the syncopated ululations of the Pygmy melodies. Energized by her rediscovery, Marie returned to Belgium ready to share.

Zap Mama, the world-renowned a cappella group Marie founded, is a persistent exploration of cross-cultural musical pollination, incorporating sounds ranging from Moroccan mawwal to Delta blues. It was the Zap album Seven that marked an evolution for the strictly a cappella female ensemble with the introduction of instruments and male vocals. Marie explains the change: “To use only women limits the vocal register too much, I want to see the voice go as far as possible. But the voice talks to the head. Instruments talk directly to the body. When there is a drum, it’s the body that understands. I wanted to mix the two.

 

Zap Mama

 

Marie moved to the United States for a few years, where she began to collaborate with its R&B and hip hop artists. Zap Mama’s Ancestry in Progress features neo-soul Erykah Badu (on “Bandy Bandy”), hip-hop artists Common and Talib Kweli (on “Yelling Away”), and other members of the Roots’ Philly massive.

After her American experience, Marie moved back to Belgium.

Discography

Zap Mama (1991)
Adventures in Afropea 1 (Luaka Bop, 1993)
Sabsylma (Luaka Bop, 1994)
Seven (Luaka Bop, 1997)
A Ma Zone (Luaka Bop, 1999)
Ancestry in Progress Luaka Bop, 2004)
Supermoon (Heads Up, 2007)
ReCreation (Heads Up, 2009)

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Artist Profiles: Sophie Cavez

Sophie Cavez – Photo by Jan Keirse

Sophie Cavez is a self-taught musician who started playing the diatonic accordion at the age of 17. She began her career by replacing Didier Laloy in various settings, but was soon recognized for the remarkable quality of her playing. As a result she became the accordionist of numerous bands herself, one of them being Urban Trad.

Together with Karim Bagglli she also founded her own band Dazibao where she played her own compositions full of eastern and flamenco influences. Apart from this she can also be seen in the Racines show by comedian Phlllippe Vauchel, and in Luc Pilartz’s VioSons populaires en Wallonie.

She played accordion with Celtic bands Camaxe and Ialma and has had a long-standing collaboration with cellist Baltazar Montanaro.

Discography:

Jong Folk (Apple Rekord, 2003)
Elem, with Urban Trad (Universal Music, 2005)
Imaxes, with Camaxe (Wildboar, 2005)
Alma, with Dazibao (Home Records, 2005)
Si la terre…, with Geneviève Laloy (Polyson, 2005)
Fars, with Jong Folk (Apple Rekord, 2005)
Nova Era, with Ialma (2006)
Erbalunga, with Urban Trad (2007)
E40, with Dazibao (2007)
Luna, with KV Express (2007)
Lumen, with No Blues (2008)
The Watchman, with Ad Van Meurs & Friends (2010)
Sophie Cavez and Baltazar Montanaro (Appel Rekords, 2010)
Les Mamelles du Désir, with Jeff Caresse (Appel Rekords, 2011)
Opus 1, with Knopf Quartet (Wildboar 2011)
Escales, with Baltazar Montanaro (Appel Rekords, 2012)
Reiseiland, with Soetkin Collier Quartet (Appel Rekords, 2012)
3e temps, with Baltazar Montanaro (2015)
Zafon, with KV Express (Homerecords 2016)

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