Music

Belize's Garifuna Collective Shares Video for "Hamala / Let Him Fly" (premiere)

Photo: Jeremy Lewis / Stonetree Records

Ahead of new album Aban, the Garifuna Collective showcases the radiance of Belize and the resilience of the Garifuna culture in the new video for laid-back single "Hamala".

The video for new Garifuna Collective single "Hamala / Let Him Fly" - begins with shots of crashing waves and the streets of Hopkins, a Belizean village often considered a cultural center for the Garifuna community whose settlements dot the Caribbean coastlines of Central America. As a group of young boys begin to embark on a journey to make and fly their own kite from found fabric, they walk past palm trees and small, wooden houses. Behind it all, the Collective sings and plays, the song simple and breezy, chill dub-style rhythms carrying a story skyward.

"'Hamala' is a song that came to me in a dream," explains songwriter Emilio Thomas, invoking centuries of Garifuna performers who have long drawn music from their own sleeping minds. "He wants to go out in the world and experience it, learn from it. But in order for him to accomplish this, he needs his community to embrace him, prepare him for what lies ahead."

Relatively small in terms of population, the worldwide Garifuna nation is perhaps best-known for its UNESCO-protected musical traditions, which are woven into many aspects of everyday life. For Jeremy Christoph Lewis, the video's director, the Garifuna Collective is a group whose career has particular significance.

"I used to walk from the north side of Hopkins Village to meet my cousin Billy and together we would go and watch the recording sessions with the Garifuna Collective while they were recording the Watina and Umalali albums," says Lewis, recalling his teenage years. "I clearly remember just being blown away by what I saw: the cameras and the equipment that were there inside an old thatch house by the beach… That is when I realized what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to be an artist, a visual artist!"

The butterfly effect he describes - the ways in which every action sends ripples through the lives of others - is particularly fitting in the context of the Garifuna Collective, which has included some of the Garifuna community's most well-known musicians.

"In my mind, I can still see Andy Palacio, Paul Nabor, Aurelio, all in one place," Lewis continues, naming three particularly famous Garifuna artists and activists of past and present, "making music and having fun."

As the camera pans over peaceful shots of sand, greenery, and people, it's easy enough to imagine what joyful sessions must have been had over the years, especially before Nabor's and Palacio's passings. Even now, though, what they and the Collective first created continues to grow - and the boy in "Hamala" serves as a perfect metaphor.

Photo: Jeremy Lewis / Stonetree Records

Thomas sums up the lesson best as he returns to his words about his main character: "He knows that the rich culture of his people has the elements he needs to grow his wings and fly."

As the first single from upcoming album Aban, "Hamala", too, has a richness in its realism and warmth, showcasing the radiance of both Belize and the stellar Garifuna Collective as they share their experiences with the world on tour.

Aban comes out 15 September on Stonetree Records and is available for preorder June 21.

European and North American tour dates for Summer and Fall 2019 can be found at the band's site.

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