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Jul 14, 2022

Garifuna Musician Emilio Thomas Prepares for Garifuna Collective European Tour

Belizean Musician, thirty-two-year-old Emilio Thomas, has been performing across the world for the better part of the last decade with the Garifuna Collective. During this time, he has been able to hone his musical skills which he began developing as a child growing up in Dangriga. Thomas has since acquired experience and knowledge that sets him apart both on stage and offstage in the promotion of culture and the development of up and coming artists. News Five’s Paul Lopez spoke with this Belizean talent via Zoom today, as he prepared to take the world stage once again with the Garifuna Collective in their upcoming European tour.


Meet Emilio Thomas, the youngest member of the Garifuna Collective Band. He is known as Sasamu on stage, a name that translates to wise, skillful, and masterful.  Thomas’ contributions to the musical landscape in Belize embody Belizean excellence.


Emilio “Sasamu” Thomas

Emilio “Sasamu” Thomas, Garifuna Musician

“My responsibility on the band is a guitar player and a vocalist and depending on the song you would see me on the segundo drum, the base drum, as well as the clave and the maraca.”


His journey has been one of determination and  cultural promotion. While growing up in the culture capital of Belize, Dangriga Town, Thomas developed a strong appreciation for drumming.


Emilio “Sasamu” Thomas

“I grew up listening to old Garifuna Paranda music mostly. There was this one time this guy he is of Garifuna decent, came to visit Dangriga in the Lake Land Area and he saw me playing on the streets and he asked me if I knew this guy Junie Aranda and I said yes and he wants to know if I can go and get him. He promised me a dollar or two dollars I think. So, I ran to the house and gave the message to the wife of Junie Aranda and she said she would get him ready to go and meet him at the Lake Land Recreation Center. So, I ran back to him and told him exactly what I was told. I pretended like I forgot about the money that he had promised, because I didn’t know how to ask people for money at this time. So, he told me that promise is a promise and he gave me the dollar. And, I use to follow Junie Aranda around because he always had his guitar. He was a Garifuna Parandero and he use to serenade families and so with his guitar, and that is how I was inspired to become a Garifuna musician.”


As a high school student, he crossed paths with Garifuna musicians Adrian “The Doc” Martinez and Mark Pascual. They were both teachers at Ecumenical High School in Dangriga Town.  These men were instrumental in inspiring a teenage Thomas to take his musical skills to the next level. Thomas would go on to take on a high school teaching job, but he soon realized that his true calling was for the promotion of his heritage, through music, on the world stage.  He left the classroom and began touring as a Parrandero  in Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. In 2014 the Garifuna Collective Band invited Thomas to join them on stage for the Festival Del Caribe in Mexico.


Emilio “Sasamu” Thomas

“When I was convinced to go on the biggest tour with the Garifuna Collective in 2014, the only words that made sense to me is if you want to have a successful solo career, the Garifuna Collective is the best way for you to get to do that destination. And, those words are still with me up to this day.”


Thomas is now preparing to tour Europe, starting two weeks from today, with the Garifuna Collective Band. The tour will take them to the World of Music, Arts and Dance Festival (WOMAD) at the Charlton Park House Estate, England, as well as the Jazz Café London.


Emilio “Sasamu” Thomas

“I believe that every tour we have is a big opportunity and I will tell you why, because there will be people there that have never heard your music and then you will get the opportunity to follow you and persuade your music. So, the Garifuna Collective, for example, we have to go to the UK also during this tour. We start off at Czech Republic. We go on to Brussels; we play there in Belgium. We then move to the UK for almost a week. We go and play at the Jazz Café, which is a concert venue. And, WOMAD is a big deal. So we are one of the acts there at WOMAD and we have a whole bunch of stuff to do in France this year. We have workshops as well we will be facilitating as a band.”

Emilio Thomas is also a Music Consultant. Over the years he has acquired a vast amount of knowledge on various fields in the industry, expertise he now invests in up and coming artists both locally and internationally through workshops. And if being a world class musician and a consultant is not enough, Thomas is endeavoring to learn the intricacies of economics and the real estate industry through online courses.


Emilio “Sasamu” Thomas

“I am doing self studies. There is certain courses that will take online. Some courses are very good, but I will determine if it is very good. Some courses I pay for, depending on what I see in the description and then along the way while taking the course. However, YouTube and the internet, we live in the information age, and even though Belize’s education is not based on that, we have the opportunity to learn much on the internet. That is the kind of exposure you can get to become a big deal in whatever area or skill set you are venturing in. If I was told I could have bought a book and learnt all of this, I would have disregarded college.”


Reporting for News Five I am Paul Lopez

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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