The Garifuna Jazz union has its beginnings in Los Angeles California when jazz vocalist Lucy Blanco began researching and learning more about her Garifuna heritage in 2008. Through her research she learned about the work of prominent Garifuna artists like the late Andy Palacio and Aurelio Martinez. She began working on the concept of blending the Jazz genre with the Garifuna language and percussive rhythms with her then music director the late Michael Andrews. The first piece recorded in this concept came in May 2009 with a demo recording of Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil”. The instrumentation was simple with Hartford born pianist/MD Warren Byrd, Lucy Blanco on vocals and Ricardo Guity Seattle based Garifuna musician/percussionist on drums. The concept continued to develop as Lucy made her way to what is considered the Jazz mecca, her native hometown of New York City in August 2009. There she met and had the pleasure of working with some of the best jazz musicians in the city. The ideal blend for this sound would be traditional Garifuna musicians and jazz musicians bringing what they have to the table and create a new sound with familiar jazz standards. The concept came to fruition with a performance at Garage Restaurant in Greenwich Village during Garifuna Heritage Month with Benito Gonzales on piano, Ariel De la Portilla on Bass, Henning Stumm on drums and Garifuna Musician James Lovell on vocals, guitar and Garifuna drums. The Garifuna Jazz sound continued to shift as James Lovell and Lucy Blanco collaborated and the movement morphed into what we now call The Afri-Garifuna Jazz Ensemble.
AfriGarifuna Jazz originated at 1474 Bushwick Ave in the Bushwick and Ocean-Hill Areas in Brooklyn New York in Spring of 2011. This new music art form has a unique and distinct sound, because it incorporated the traditional Garifuna rhythms such as Punta, Paranda and Hungu hungu, etc. Afrigarifuna Jazz is Jazz music interpreted from a Garifuna perspective (viewpoint). It uses Garifuna instruments such as the Maracas, Garifuna Drums, Turtle-Shells, Conch Shells, the Garifuna Language along with contemporary instruments to acquire the distinct sound.
AfriGarifuna is a combination of Africa and Garifuna, in other words, the music and the instruments of the cultures in Africa is fused with the music and instrument of the Garifuna culture. Jazz, is a musical art form that combines elements from different cultures. Therefore, this fusion of African, African American, European and Garifuna elements are the base foundation that drives this brand new music that was coined AFriGarifuna Jazz by James Lovell.
AfriGarifuna was first introduced to a well appreciative audience in Mount Vernon on May 7th 2011. The musical pioneers were James Lovell, Lucy Blanco, Alex Kwabena Colon, Terrence Butler and Tyrone Owusu Slater.
The purpose of this brand new music genre is to bring to awareness to the endangered language of the Garifuna People that was proclaimed a “Masterpiece and Oral Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” Therefore, AfriGarifuna Jazz will be another platform where the history and language of the Garifuna will be safeguarded through music.
Another important purpose of this music is to demonstrate the universal message of one love. The history of African-American, Latin America and the Garifuna people and many other cultures in this world share a similar history where there has always been a struggle to maintain freedom, liberty and preservation of its culture, traditions and language. It is an awesome testament to our Creator when people can come together and spread a positive message through music.
AfriGarifuna Jazz has been conceived and it’s only a matter of time before it spread all over the world. Get ready to listen, enjoy and appreciate another music genre promoting and advocating for the Garifuna Nation.