Hopkins’ Lebeha Drummers to Release New Studio Album, Biama, This May

by Khaila Gentle

On the North End of Hopkins Village, Belize, if you follow the sound of drums, you will find the Lebeha Drumming Center, opened in 2003 by Jabbar Lambey and Dorothy Pettersen to preserve Garifuna culture. This is where youngsters race to after school every day to learn their own traditional songs and dances

Visiting the Lebeha Drumming Center in tiny Hopkins Village is a sought after experience on many a Belize itinerary, and it’s not hard to see why. Everyone from village youngsters, to intrepid travelers, and even the curious journalist have at some point found themselves swaying to the beat of Garifuna drums at this local culture and community hub. Many others have delved into the world of Garifuna history and traditions via a music or cooking lesson, an evening-time hangout, or perhaps even the unique and energizing Garifunarobics.

This month, the group at the heart of the drumming center, the Lebeha Drummers, will be releasing a brand new music album entitled Biama. Keep reading to learn more about the beloved drummers from Hopkins, including when Biama will be hitting the shelves.

Biama album artwork © Lebeha Drumming Center

A New Release for Traditional Garifuna Music Enthusiasts

The first song on Biama, Cabasa Wiega (We are hungry), opens with the soothing rhythm of drums. It is followed not long after by the turtle shell, and then at last the melodic voice of a Garifuna vocalist.

Composed of 13 songs, the new album features vocals and drums, occasionally alongside calabash shakers and turtle shells. It highlights traditional Garifuna rhythms such as punta, paranda, chumba, wanaragua, and hüngühüngü.

The music of the Garifuna people blends West African rhythms, drum styles, phrasing, and dances with Indigenous Carib melodic structures and vocal styles. Developed over the past centuries in the Caribbean and Central America, Garifuna music is, like the Garinagu themselves, a beautiful hybrid that aurally showcases the rich history and heritage of the Garifuna people

The songs that make up Biama are a rich and electic fusion of old and new. Offering everything from anthems of cultural pride to somber but insightful messages, the new album by the Lebeha Drummers is sure to be a treat for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the world of Afro-Caribbean music.

Did you know? The use of turtle shells in Garifuna music is the most recent addition, credited to Pen Cayetano, local artist and father of the Punta Rock genre. 

About the Lebeha Drumming Center

More than just a Garifuna music center, the Lebeha Drumming Center, found on the northern end of Hopkins village is an homage to the preservation of Garifuna culture and tradition. Founded in 2003 by Garifuna drummer Jabbar Lambey and his partner Dorothy Pettersen, it has served as a safe space for local youth to drum, dance, and socialize. Originally known as the Lebeha Boys, the original group of young drummers was mentored by Lambey himself, and in 2005, they recorded their first-ever CD, titled Lebeha Drumming. Biama, however, is their first professional studio album.

Lebeha Drumming Center Garifuna

Lebeha Drumming Center. Photo by Hopkins Uncut

The album name, the Garifuna word for two, is an ode to this being the group’s second CD.  For two decades the Lebeha Drummers have been honing their craft. Their easily recognizable style of Garifuna music, says the group website,  was developed and made their own through an idiosyncratic approach to Garifuna rhythm and melody.

Photo courtesy of the Belize Tourism Board

Visiting Lebeha means you can actively partake alongside Garifuna students practicing and performing on the drums. And if you’re more of a listener than a doer, don’t fret; you can also support the Lebeha Drummers through donations and purchasing their CDs. Planning to visit Hopkins? Contact the center to schedule lessons.

Biama goes on sale on May 19th. Check out the album trailer and the story behind the Lebeha Drummers below or learn more by visiting the Lebeha website.

Featured Photo by the Belize Tourism Board

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