James Lovell Preserves The Garifuna Language Through Music
By: Jos� Francisco �vila

� 2014 by Jos� Francisco �vila, All Rights Reserved


As we continue the celebration Garifuna Arts & Culture Appreciation, we are pleased to introduce you to Mr. James Lovell whose goals and aspirations are "To uplift, promote and preserve the Garifuna Culture." He has contributed to the inventory of Garifuna art forms with a view to confronting the erosion of the Garifuna culture in the heart of modern day communities. 


James Lovell

 James Lovell is a Garifuna Artist who is very passionate about his heritage and is working diligently for the empowerment and advancement of the Garifuna people and culture. James believes the Garifuna children here in the United States of America can be proud of their heritage if the Garifuna art forms, such as dance, music, poems, books and drama are exposed in the mass media and on the world's performing platforms.


James Lovell was born in the village of Mango Creek, but grew up in Dangriga Town, Belize, Central America. Born with the gift to sing, he had several opportunities to perform in elementary and high school talent shows in Belize and and neighboring countries, as an aspiring artistJames was very much influenced by Pen Cayetano and the Turtle Shell Band. Pen Cayetano is the legendary "King of Punta Rock Music." He is responsible for the creation of this new Garifuna genre since its inception into "mainstream" music in 1979. Punta Rock Music is contemporary Garifuna music that utilizes the shell of turtles and other percussion instruments to create a fast tempo music played with lyrics which addressed the political, social and economical issues of the people of Belize.


After graduating from Ecumenical High School in Dangriga Town, James joined the Belize Police Force Band, where he learned to play several instruments such as the guitar, bass guitar, clarinet, euphonium saxophone and keyboards. While in the Police Band, James took advanced correspondence courses from the Royal School of Music. He learned to read, write and to arrange musical compositions.


In 1990, James migrated to the United States. He put his music career on hold to join the United States Marine Corps. Four years later he received an honorable discharge.


The Artist


In 2011, James co-founded the Afri-Garifuna Jazz ensemble. This new music art form has a unique and distinct sound, which incorporates the traditional Garifuna rhythms. Afrigarifuna Jazz is Jazz music interpreted from a Garifuna perspective. It uses Garifuna instruments, the Garifuna Language along with contemporary instruments to acquire the distinct sound.


In June 1995, James produced and released his first professional CD album entitled "Cabasan Numari" (who is going to be my wife). One of James' songs, was recorded by "La Tribu Garifuna," a band from Honduras. Another band, "Estrellas Ubou" prerecorded James' song, "HESIENTIBUNU," (I'm in love with you). The album Cabasan Numari was well received in the Garifuna communities in Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and other parts of the world. James has produced and recorded three albums and is presently working on a bilingual children nursery rhymes album. He is currently working on the following projects:


* A Bilingual Nursery Rhymes Album

* Garifuna/English Nursery Rhymes Musical

* Garifuna Tap Punta- a dance production incorporating tap dancing and punta dance movements with Garifuna and Afrigarifuna Rhythms.


James has honed many of his special skills and talent as a vocalist, lyricist, composer, arranger, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, saxophone, Garifuna drums, djembe, recorder, Clarinet, and euphonium.


Musical Ambassador


James' goals and aspirations are "To uplift, promote and preserve the Garifuna Culture. To expose Garifuna Arts and music to the world, and to introduce a unique and different type of music which will add a new dimension to the music world." He also wants to educate and enlighten Garifuna and non-Garifuna about the history and the culture of the race.


James has composed several songs that are loved, well known and well received by the Garifuna Communities. He is one Garifuna Artist who is determined to expose the Garifuna music, dance and language to the other cultures of the world. While his career has taken him to the educational setting, he has not strayed from his roots. He is presently educating the youths with the New York City Board of Education. He is frequently featured in many musical showcases, radio and television interviews in the United States and aboard.


Musical Director


As a professional Garifuna Artist, James has performed in numerous settings in New York City and the Tri-State areas. James is the Co-founder of Yurumein Garifuna Cultural Retrieval  "YuGaCuRe", the only program to date that is teaching the children and young adults in St Vincent and the Grenadines, to speak the Garifuna Language through music, dance and drumming. As part of this project, he translated the St Vincent and the Grenadines national anthem into the Garifuna Language.


He facilitated "Habinaha Garinagu" (Dance Garifuna) in Dangriga Belize, Central America, sponsored by the National Garifuna Council. Classroom workshop activities included the teaching of Garifuna history, songs, music, drumming, and teaching basic music theory. The result of the workshop was the culmination of three professional productions. He organized, coordinated and managed the music section of the production including working the theatre crew with staging, sound as well as video coordination.


In 1994, James became one of the co-creators and co-founder as well as the Musical Director of Illagulei (Roots), a Garifuna Cultural Performing Arts Company, which utilized performing arts for the preserving and uplifting of the Garifuna culture. James was the driving force in the company's musical department. He is responsible for the formation and creation of Illagulei's Children orchestra.


James has been awarded numerous citations from the City and State level of New York for his contribution to the cultural fabric of the Garifuna Culture in New York, The United States of America and in other countries in the world.


You can enjoy James Lovell and the Afri-Garifuna Jazz Ensemble at Bronx Rising! A Celebration of Garifuna Culture, Saturday, May 17th at 6:00 - 10:30 pm at the Bronx Music Heritage Center Lab: 1303 Louis Ni�� Blvd. Bronx, NY



Photo courtesy of Teofilo Colon, Jr.