Music ethnologists have traveled around the world since the days when wax cylinders were the height of recording technology, collecting examples of music from various cultures. In some instances these recordings have become not only research projects, but records of traditions heading for extinction. Buried in the archives of universities and museums are sound files of everything from Native American healing songs to chants and ritual music from Southern Africa. European encroachment into indigenous peoples' lives and lands and colonial policies of cultural genocide and enforced assimilation ensured that those ancient songs would not be passed along to a new generation and these recordings are all that remains of thousands of years of tradition.
Ironically as technology improved to allow better quality recordings, fewer and fewer cultures remained to be recorded. These field recording techniques have been used in recent years to ensure music that grew out of early North American European and slave cultures is being preserved. While in the United States that has included songs that are as contemporary as the 1930s, in other parts of our hemisphere some of these traditions date back to the 17th century and represent a mingling of imported and native cultures.
Sometime in the 1600s two ships carrying African slaves from Nigeria were shipwrecked off the coast of St. Vincent Island in the Caribbean, then occupied by two tribes of indigenous peoples - the Arawars and the Kalipuna - called the Caribs by Spanish explorers. Initially there was conflict between the escaped slaves and the natives but eventually they settled their differences, intermarried and created a third people who are now called Garifuna. As colonial masters changed the Garifuna were rounded up by the British to be moved to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras. When that in turn was taken from the British by the Spanish, the people were moved again, this time to Trujillo to serve as labourers and farmers.
In 1802 the Spanish shipped some of the people living in Tujillo to Belize to work as woodcutters where they established communities, and gradually more of their people joined them. When Central America achieved independence from Spain, the Garifuna remaining in Tujillo discovered they were now living in Honduras and loyalty to Spain wasn't something their countrymen approved of. This resulted in the mass migration of the people to the communities already established on the coast of Belize.