Music has long since carried the epithet “the universal language,” but Belize’s very own David Obi, popularly known as “Bredda David”, has taken music’s unifying power a step further with his unique genre of music—“Kungo Muzik”.
This week, Obi shared with The Reporter the message behind his music and how that message is reflected in the genre’s very musical composition and lyrical context.
Obi—a man of Kriol (Creole) ancestry who was raised in culture capital Dangriga—said that the fortunate opportunity to have lived the mores of both the Kriol and the Garinagu had helped him to come to a clear revelation about the so-called Kriol-Garifuna cultural dichotomy: that there is none.
He explained that both cultures—actually all peoples regardless of how deeply buried in their ancestral lineage it is—share a common African heritage; and this fact, Obi says, is the central theme behind Kungo Muzik’s lyrics and core cadence.
While his message carries a universal motif, as a Belizean, Obi has designed his music to serve as an aide memoire to his direct kinsmen by showing how they are more similar than different.
And that theme can be felt and heard quite conspicuously in songs such as “Truth Cut Steele”, which carries a Sambai (African) tempo, despite it being a Kriol song—more specifically the type to be heard in the rural Gales Point Manatee, where the influence of Mother Africa in Kriol culture has been greatly preserved.
A dissection of “Truth Cut Steel” revealed that the Obi and his band, Tribal Vibes, used instruments such as the ‘Jeembe’, an African-style drum that is a fusion of the Primera and Segunda (two well-known drums used in Garifuna music) and a bass drum.
The song also featured the Gumbae bass drums, also of African roots.
Even though the song’s lyrics were mostly in Kriol and had an infusion of instruments such as the conch shell and cow bell, Obi said that the song is packed with Sambai music’s trademark: the call-and-response vocals that could be heard throughout the piece.
Obi explained that the natural Sambai aspects to be heard in the Kriol music of Gales Point and the obvious African influence in most Garifuna music points to both cultures’ common kinship.
But Kungo Muzik doesn’t stop there, “Bredda David” said. It unites more than just Kriol and Garifuna; it reminds that all people are of one African origin.
Therefore, Kungo Muzik stands as a hybrid of several musical genres including calypso, which Obi says is evidenced in some of his music’s bass patterns; bruk-down music, which is represented by the addition of instruments such as the accordion; Reggae, which is present via his music’s lyrical context; and Latin music, found in the inclusion of Samba music’s Congo drums.
While his latest album Day di Dawn features a few remakes of ageless Kriol tunes like “Mi Plantation” and a remix of “Freetown Gal-A”, which comes fully equipped with background vocals from Ernest Carballo, Obi said that Kungo Muzik’s principal message could best be heard in the inspired track “We roots de ina Afreeka,” an inspiration for which he said he is most grateful.
Now on his tenth album, which is a tribute to the twenty-seventh year of this hybrid’s formation, Obi said that like the album’s second and power-packed track “Stronger”, Kungo Muzik will continue on its steady stride in the midst of a constantly evolving and progressing world, because the truth of the message can never fade; it can only get stronger.