Ethnicity, Modernity, and Retention in Garifuna Punta

In the article “Ethnicity, Modernity, and Retention in Garifuna Punta” by Oliver N. Greene, one of the key words is ethnicity. The term ethnicity refers to state of belonging to a specific social group, which has a common culture. In the article, the term can be found in pages 190, 192, 193,196, 202, and 205. The term ‘modernity’ is also another key term in the article. It means being current or being of the present. In the article, the term ‘modernity’ is found in pages 190, 191, 193, 198, 204, and 206. The other important term in the article is ‘indigenous’, which is found in pages 192, 195, and 199. The term refers to something, known to occur naturally in a specific place.

In the article, Greene looks at how the Garinagu: people of West Africa and Amerindian descent who live along the Caribbean coast, have managed to maintain their culture over hundreds of years after they left their ancestry land (189). The Garinagu express their culture through punta, a genre of music of the Garinagu. Symbolically, the punta is a cock-and-hen mating dance where couples try to outdo each other through “rapid movement of their lower limbs, hips, and buttocks and a motionless upper torso” (Greene 190). Instruments used to makes the rhythm for the dances include hollow turtle shells, conch shell trumpets, mallet, and membranophones, which are all traditional music instruments.

However, since the 1980s, the Garinagu have managed to introduce some aspects of modernity in their punta: punta rock. Although punta rock has some aspects of modernity, such as use of electric guitar, it is still a significant representation of the culture of the Garinagu. Greene says, “Punta rock has driven the youths and young adults in Belize and in Garifuna communities in the United States craze” (190). Bands such as the Turtle Shell Band perform different punta rock songs in the entire Belize. The content of their songs is largely traditional. They encourage young Garinuga to be proud of, and hold-on to their culture.   

On page 202, Greene states, “…cultural identity is revealed and expressed when individual experiences, unique to a particular way of life, are emphatically shared by others who have the same way of life.” How does this argument reflect our understanding of cultural identity? On page 204, Greene states, “Cultural memory serves as the catalyst for expressing Garifuna identity through punta, paranda, and punta rock. In turn, there genres provide the platform or vehicle through which Garinuga first remember and then express who they are.” What does the author’s argument imply about the role of traditional music in retrieval and preservation of the culture of different people?

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