The Dawn of Punta Rock
In the late 1970s, in the little town of Dengriga, Belize, Pen Cayetano hatched his new creation. He named it Punta Rock. Pen explained later that the music was initially played solely at celebrations and holidays. In fact, it was originally intended to only be played annually, on November 19th, for Beluria, or Ninth Night, a Garifuna holiday celebrating their ancestors’ landing in Belize nearly three hundred years ago. But the new music caught on very quickly with the locals and in a short time, Cayetano formed the Turtle Shell Band, the first Punta Rock band ever. And the first official turtle shell player in that band was a young man by the name of Mohobub Flores.
Mohobub was born into a musical family: his mother and sisters are performing vocalists. He started his career as a percussionist at an early age, “banging on the pots and pans and practically anything in sight,” according to his patient mother. He had been living in Guatemala for a short stint but returned to his hometown specifically to play in the Turtle Shell Band. Then, in the mid 1980s, the group made a big leap, going electric. A decade later, Mohobub ventured into a solo career, veering toward a style of music that displayed more Latin and Garifuna influence. According to Flores, he wanted to play music that was, “more laid-back than mainstream Punta”. So he assembled a band and for the next five years, he wrote new music and toured, refining his group. Ultimately, he was invited into the Stonetree recording studio and given the opportunity to show off his accomplishments.
The resulting CD is simply titled, “Mohobub”, released as a part of the Belizean Punta Rockers Series. Every song on the disc is very danceable, opening with “Ital Food”, an overt celebration of life. “Ital food, I like it, I like it, I love it!” Flores sings with a conviction that can only come from the heart. Even “message” songs on the CD, such as “Your Lova” and “We Will Return” have a contagious sound that begs for a dance floor. The music itself has a strong, up-tempo bass and percussion backbone, provided by Tyron Hernandez and “Laruni” Flores, respectively. Dale Davis on tenor sax, and Jimmy Lee on keyboards provide the bulk of solos, with Roberto Palacio filling in the gaps on electric guitar.
All the songs, save two, are written by Mohobub on this forty-five minute CD. In the studio, they also use snatches of a variety of traditional Garifuna songs, which are sung in group refrain on a few of the songs. Again, the slick production of Ivan Duran and Stonetree Records shines through. The sound is always clean and bright, with a distinct separation of each of the instruments and vocal parts.
Akin to a festival atmosphere, the songs build to a crescendo about three-quarters of the way through the disc, and hold that energy. The final song, “V.A.T.” is an excellent closer, leaving the listener hoping for an encore. Let’s hope it is in the works.
Mohobub and all Stonetree CDs are available at Jaime Peligro book store in Playa Tamarindo, where they will gladly sample the music for its customers. All comments concerning this article are welcome.