Features — 21 December 2004 — by Adele Ramos

Judging the contestant were three prominent musicians: Gina Scott, Tricia Fairweather and Colville Young, Jr.

Ms. Leela told the media that the song, Balahu, which she wrote, is all about celebrating the Creole culture, and the celebrants display their joy with hearty and contagious ?balahu? laughter.

Another one of her songs, Ah Wah Know Who Seh Kriol Noh Gat No Kulcha, which she describes as her anthem, sends a similar message?that the Creoles have a culture to be proud of, to celebrate.

The artists explained that the style of ?brukdong? which she sings has been popular in places like Punta Gorda Town and Monkey River Village, which she said used to be a town up until the early 1900?s. In Monkey River, there were many African slaves who worked there extracting timber. It was in those logwood camps that the ?buru style? brukdong, which she sings, developed as a uniquely Belizean tradition, she explained.

The melodies are a synergy of sounds that emanate from the jackass jawbone, the accordion, the ?shaka,? and the goombay drum (a drum with two faces). It is swifter than the Mr. Peter?s brukdong and its trademark is an echo on the last line of the verse or the chorus.

The emcee for the night of the competition, Myrna Manzanares, took a walk down memory lane as she recalled the now dying Christmas-time tradition of Belizeans playing brukdong music from house to house. The call and response technique is typical of brukdong, she said.

She also explained that the music evolved inside the mahogany camps in Belize, and utilized every possible noise-making object?including pigtail buckets and the jawbone of the jackass?that the slaves could use to make their music.

On Friday night, the audience of about 300 was treated with special appearances by Mr. Wilfred Peters, who played some of his everlastingly popular tunes such as Shal-i Baby, Salomon Gi Ah, and Chicken Paats.

On Friday night, the full color of the Belizean musical genre was displayed as seven contestants?some new and some old?performed their numbers on stage. The other six were: What a key bad man, performed by Henry Genus III, Leela?s brother; Me no noh weh rang wid yu, by Martha Weatherburn; You da my queen fi real, by Harrison King; Christmas Come and Gone, by Alford Butler; Competition inna Dangriga, by Sam Harris; and Sweet Brukdong, by Leela?s son, Franz Vernon.

When Leela was announced as the winner of the competition, she acknowledged that indeed, all the contestants were winners.

Her runner-up was Alford Butler, with his hilarious piece, Christmas Come and Gone.

?You find that every year, people come to your house to eat and drink,? he explained, ??it?s your expense. When yuh run out, yuh haftu go an buy again.?

In the song, he laments that he makes his rum-popo and cake, the rice and beans and salad, the ham and turkey, and the beer and stout, and somebody else comes to his house and eats or drinks them out, leaving him with the bill.

Jokingly, he said that while he would ordinarily not tolerate this kind of behavior, he does so around Christmas, because it?s a time for sharing with others.

Both artists commended the Playaz Band for being an excellent accompaniment to the artists on the night of the show.

This morning, Monday, December 20, both Vernon and Butler were presented with their winnings: Vernon received a total of $5,000: $750 as special award for song content (lyrics and message), $750 for the outstanding master?s award, $1,000 for the composer song of the year, and $2,500 for capturing the title of ?brukdong? artist of the year.

Butler received $750 for being the best new talent, and $1,500 for his second-place entry.

The major sponsors were the First Caribbean International Bank, which donated $5,000; and the Belize Electricity Limited (BEL), which gave $3,000. Other sponsors were Travellers Limited, Hotel Mopan, NICH and ICA.

Speaking at this morning?s presentation, Stephen Duncan, First Caribbean?s corporate banking director for the northern and central Caribbean, said that the initiative sets the stage for positive development of our young people, and the focus on content was to promote this positive influence. He also said that the competition is an avenue through which Belizean artists can market themselves, to develop and sell their creations.

BEL?s corporate communications manager, Dawn Sampson, encouraged ICA to establish the competition as an annual event, and challenged other enterprises to support the competition by giving donations, as well.

ICA?s director, William Neal, noted that the event would become an annual competition and would be hosted each year on the last Friday before the Christmas.

Neal also announced that the competition would be dubbed the Mr. Wilfred Peters Brukdong Competition, in honor of Mr. Wilfred Peters, the legendary Belize accordion player whose name has become synonymous with the Belize brukdong music. Mr. Peters has been in the business for the last 60 years.

He also said that ICA would explore every possible avenue to produce a CD of the songs performed for the competition, which many are undoubtedly looking forward to. Apart from the two winners, another performance that was obviously popular with the audience was Martha Weatherburn?s Me no noh weh rang wid yu.

Neal said that ICA did not have money to give prizes to everyone; however, it took note of sentiments that perhaps the other contestants should at least receive consolation prizes for their entries.

Notably, four of the seven contestants were from Punta Gorda Town: Leela and Franz Vernon, Henry Genus III, and Ms. Weatherburn.

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