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Jun 29, 2004

Santino’s Messengers: the last gig

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They have been one of the most durable bands in modern Belizean history, but come next week the sounds of Santino’s Messengers will be heard only on your favourite electronic playback device. Recently I spent some time with the guys to find out the story behind the music.

Santino Castillo, Santino?s Messengers

?So this is a financial decision besides the fact that I want to leave when we are on top of the game. ?

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

With songs like Sweat, Suavecito and Put Me Up on the Stage, Santino?s Messengers crooned their way into iconic status in Belize…and their live performances reverberated the stage wherever they played. But after more than twenty years on the road, the show is over.

According to the band?s leader, Santino Castillo, the collapse of Belize?s music industry has forced him to make this tough decision.

Santino Castillo

?I think there?s less disposable income for Belizeans to entertain the way we used to three, four years ago and so I think they have their priorities elsewhere. And to make matters worse, with the crime in Belize a lot of people are not going out, in my mind, the way they used to. That being said, nightclubs will employ either a DJ or have their own stereo system in their nightclubs and avoid paying the two thousand dollars that a big band like Santino?s Messengers charges when they are playing out.?

In addition to their local gigs, for years the Messengers played their hits out in Miami, Cancun, Cozumel, New York, Los Angeles, and just about everywhere else with strong Belizean communities. Bonded forever in song, the members say the dynamics of the industry means the faces will change but the feelings will always be constant.

Santino Castillo

?About fifty different musicians have passed through Santino?s Messengers. When I first acquired it, it had a group of twelve men, and you recycle musicians, they move on, they move to the states, for whatever reason. And in fact, last year March a whole group of them broke away to form their own band. These things happen, that?s the musical world. But yes, we?ve become a family, like the ones that have been around. Lucio has been with the band eighteen, nineteen years. Kevin has been with us fifteen years, Robert Smith, fifteen years. So yes, we?ve become like brothers, but we?re all heading close to being fifty and we have all different goals in our lives; it?s time to move on. ?

Lucio Enriquez

?So it?s a sad moment, but I knew this moment was going to come sooner or later and I have to move on. I am presently a teacher at Pallotti teaching brass music. I?m working on a brass programme over there, so it?s not like I have nothing else to do. But I?ve been on stage and under the lights for like twenty years so it?s difficult walking away.?

As for the band?s unforgettable moments on the road, Castillo says one high point in the group?s career was the reaction of Caribbean legend Byron Lee to the Messenger?s moves.

Santino Castillo

?When he was finished playing his set and Santino?s Messengers would come on, we rocked the crowd so much and they got so worked up with their hankies and jumping up that Byron Lee got angry. He said, Mr. Santino you can?t be riling up the crowd, this is my show. This is my show, this is my show… you can?t be riling up the…I said, da no me Byron, da the Belizeans they get riled up about Belize?s number one band. And quite honestly, that was a great landmark for me to see that the great Byron Lee was running a little scared of Santino?s messengers. ?

Band members say there was no secret behind the Messenger?s music; it was just the sound of hard work.

Lucio Enriquez

?We had an excellent engineer, Kevin Luis, but also we had good arrange and we had good musicians, very good musicians. We had a nice team going for a while. Hard work, it?s no secret, it?s hard work. We used to put in our time, but people just saw us out there and hearing the harmonies and everything that we were doing, but it was hard work.?

And on their way out, the band has a message for all Belizeans.

Lucio Enriquez

?I just want to encourage Belizeans overall to try to focus on the local talent because we have a lot of talent. We spend too much time focussing on foreign material and there?s no way local talent will develop if we don?t give it a chance.?

The Messenger?s final curtain call will be on Friday night at the Bellevue Hotel in Belize City.

The Messenger?s equipment is up for sale but Castillo says if the instruments aren’t sold, they will be rented to interested international artists.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “Santino’s Messengers: the last gig”

  1. Sidney says:

    The number one of Belize for years! Now we have a fake number one from Corozal! That has gotten boring sice they have the same rat …. music always! We want something new!

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