Belize may be a small country but it has had some big influences. From the impact of the Maya, to influences from both Europe and Africa, Belize has had many different styles of music over history, and integrated all of them into styles unique to Belize itself.
The musical influences of Europe and Africa were at odds, with European music being much more structured and not percussive like the African styles. The quadrilles, waltzes, and other more rigid forms of music and dance found in Europe were nothing like the free and more overt ones of Africa. The African influence encouraged musicians to take up instruments like the marimba, which is similar to the xylophone.
The four main styles of music in Belize now are Kriol, Metizo, Garifuna and Maya. These were the cultures of the greatest influence.
Kriol is the most common music to be heard in Belizean homes. It is the result of the coming together of African and Central American cultures, and is characterized by brukdown, which uses instruments such as guitars, accordions, steel drums, the jawbone of an ass, shells, and banjos.
The Metizo culture’s music is centered around the marimba a percussive instrument, which is known to have come from West Africa., and helps to provide the basis of the Metizo sound.
As for the Garifuna, according to Lorenzo Gonzalez whose article for Belize Adventure was published in Culture and Heritage, Things to See and Do, “The Garinagu proudly showcase their culture and music is a very important part of it. Their most popular music is called Punta: an upbeat dance style tune that revolves around the beating of drums and the movement of your hips. One artist who has done a great deal for Belizean music in the international music scene is Andy Palacio…he tapped into the soulful side of Garifuna music and got people listening instead of only dancing.”
The Maya influence is also very rhythmic, and characterized by the use of the percussive marimba; but another traditional Maya instrument is the Maya harp, which is made using wood from the rainforest.
While other music, such as rap, hip-hop, rock, and metal can be heard in Belize, the more traditional influences are the most popular, even amongst the younger set.
Belizean music is full, rhythmic, and has a rich history. It is wonderful that the inhabitants of Belize have integrated all these various influences into its musical tapestry.