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Mar 11, 2022

On The Bright Side of Marimba: The First all-female band

Where the Belize border meets Guatemala, the town of Benque Viejo Del Carmen is using traditional music to create wider inclusion and encourage young women to make their contributions to a previously male dominated performance art. Earlier this week, on International Women’s Day, the Benque House of Culture invited The Bright Side to meet Belize’s first ever all-female Marimba band. And what a musical treat it was.

 

Sabreena Daly

Sabreena Daly, Stand-Up

The origins of the marimba can be traced as far back as Africa. Through enslaved Africans, the sound of marimba music has taken on different identities as it travelled in different parts of Central America. Here in Benque Viejo Del Carmen, Marimba is the heart of the culture.

 

Nalleli Yacab

Nalleli Yacab, Coordinator, Benque House of Culture

“It’s a momentous occasion because this is the first time that we have an all-girls band with support of other artists in the community. But for us this is a way of saying we are breaking the bias because marimba is highly dominated by men.”

 

Katie Sunshine

Katie Sunshine, English Teacher, Band Supporter
“I think it shows that, when we talk about breaking the bias, that there really doesn’t have to be one. Those are barriers that are placed kind of arbitrarily. If somebody loves playing music, why not?”

 

Also known as the Mayan Piano, the Marimba is a traditional instrument that used to be played mostly by older men. It’s a key component of religious events, birthdays and weddings.  A few years ago some young men took it up and now, it is the girl’s turn.  While some had spaces in other bands before, this is the first all female marimba band in Belize.

 

Amirah Espat

Amirah Espat (11 years old), Performer
“I started when I was nine years old. When I saw the boys playing, I said, girls can do it too. So, my mom said that you girls should go and try it. I tried it and really liked it.”

 

Sabreena Daly

“How was it received by the boys first of all?”

 

Amirah Espat

“I think the boys would be a little bit jealous because I think the girls can do a better job, I think.”

 

 

Nalleli Yacab, Coordinator, Benque House of Culture

“For us today, it’s very important that we show our girls that they are able to do things just as equal as men. It gives us the opportunity to appreciate and uplift the spirits of women that are sometimes suffering with mental health issues and social crisis, so this will teach them and allow them a space in the performing arts for them to showcase their abilities.”

 

The teacher aiding in this process is the founder of the first youth-centered marimba band, Ian Yacab.

 

Ian Yacab

Ian Yacab,  Marimba Music Teacher
“Well we know so many challenges that women are facing in our nation and internationally as well. I think this is a motivation of empowering them to continue know that they are not alone and that they can do many things if they set is as goals. So we came out with this idea and we hope all from this idea, this continues and it grows for the better of women to have the opportunity to come to the house of culture to learn marimba and perform.”

 

The youngest of the performers so far is 9-year-old Khailee.

 

Khailee Jones

Khailee Jones (9 years old), Performer
“I didn’t know that I wanted to play the marimba until my mom showed me. And then I was like yea, I want to play the marimba!”

 

Sabreena Daly

“When you say your mom showed you, did she know how to play it or did she show you the instrument?”

Khailee Jones

“No, she didn’t know how to play it but she encouraged me to do it. I have been practicing since I was 8 years old.”

 

Sabreena Daly

“And your 9, so that makes it about a year right?”

Khailee Jones

“Yeah, a year.”

 

Leandra Chulin

Leandra Chulin, Grandmother of Khailee Jones

“I’m very proud of my granddaughter. She learnt to play the marimba at this very young age. We always encouraged my children and now my grandchildren to be part of our culture because it has to be kept alive.”
A religious sister of Mount Carmel Parish says her support comes from the belief that we are all given our talents to be shared with the world.

 

Sister Mary Rachel

Sister Mary Rachel, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish
“I love everything having to do with women and her dignity and her beauty and so I see this as a chance for us as sisters to come together and share our talents together. I think that it is beautiful to say that yes, we have this musical talent and we want to share it with the world. For me is not derogatory to men at all to say that we have that talent, but it gives us a chance to shine.”

 

Looking on the bright side of Marimba Music, I’m Sabreena Daly.

 

The band was created through a NICH grassroots program under the Benque House of Culture.


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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