One of the most exciting cultural events in music is set to kick off this Friday in New Orleans, Louisiana. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will be held in the Cultural Exchange Pavilion at the Louisiana State Fair Grounds, and this year will feature a strong focus on the nation of Belize.
First founded in 1970 after a spontaneous meeting between gospel legend Mahalia Jackson and jazz great Duke Ellington, the New Orleans Jazz Festival has since blossomed to become one of the premiere musical festivals held in the United States. Every year, the festival includes a spotlight on a specific nation, with Belize holding this special honor in 2016.
Attendees will see a special demonstration of the music, culture and history of the Central American nation of Belize, showcasing its unique heritage of Maya, Creole, East Indian, British, Mestizo, Garifuna, Lebanese, Mennonite, Caribbean and Chinese history. Long a British colony, today Belize is an independent nation and the only country in Central America with English as its official language.
At this year’s Jazz and Heritage Festival, Belizean local Florencio Mess, a master craftsman of the traditional Mayan K’ekhchi harp, will give both musical demonstrations as well as workshops on how he and his son make the centuries-old instrument. Belizean storyteller Natividad Obando will present a traditional Day of the Dead altar at the festival for Belizean musicians while basketweaver Marta Chiac will give a workshop on how to make Mayan jippi jappa baskets from materials sourced from the rainforest.
Daid Matus, the award-winning costume designer, will have an exhibition to showcase some of the many Carnival costumes he’s created over the past 18 years. Artist Elmer Panti will hold demonstrations on how to carve slate according to traditional Mayan techniques and the Talla Walla Vibrations band will give a performance of Creole Sambai and Garifuna drum music.
The staff and management of Chabil Mar support all the artists and craftspeople who will be giving demonstrations and performances at the festival and thank the organizers for this special opportunity to promote the music, history and culture of Belize.