PUNTA GORDA–An official state funeral for renowned Belizean musician and parandero, Paul Nabor, was held last Saturday, November 1, at the St. Peter Claver Church in Punta Gorda, Toledo, where he had lived for most of his adult life.
The funeral service for the 86-year-old musical icon, who was born under the name Alfonso Palacio, started at 11:00 a.m. and ended almost two hours later with hundreds of adoring fans and admirers in attendance, in addition to a host of family, friends, government representatives and dignitaries such as Governor General Sir Colville Young and Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Francis Fonseca.
The ceremony was replete with recollections from a repertoire of highly regarded musical artists including Aurelio Martinez, who flew in to Belize from Spain earlier this week for the interment.
Nabor’s only child, Marie Martinez, who came in from the United States, sentimentally spoke about her father, who was affectionately known by most of his colleagues as “Nabi”.
She said, “He always told me, ‘Daughter, I want to do good things in order to uplift your life. God will bless you abundantly, daughter, because you were not a child that gave my sisters who raised you problems. If you are a problem now, you’re on your own, but when you were younger, you were a good child.’ And that is so nice to hear from a father…that was so loving, caring and giving.”
Apart from being a musical great, Nabor was also known as a humble and dedicated fisherman in his coastal hometown of Dangriga, and according to Robert Mariano, the president of the National Garifuna Council, who was his neighbor, “Nabi” was a jovial and hardworking individual who liked his “taste” and his music.
“What I remembered of him was his cheerfulness and industriousness. Nabor was a fisherman by profession. He went fishing in his dorey most weekdays and always brought in the best. I remembered my older brother selling fish on strings for him in Dangriga. He was also fun-loving. In the evening, he along with a man called Mr. Cookie and other men would play their guitars or practice their music. They were very happy whilst they did this. We did our best to emulate them by having our own ‘milkpan combo’ in the neighborhood. Nabor loved his ‘taste’ and everyone in the neighborhood knew when he was under the influence [of alcohol] – he would come singing down the street with his guitar in his hand. We all loved him, though, because he was all of our friend”, Mariano recounted.
While we understand that Nabor has left behind only 10 recorded songs, culture and art enthusiast Yasser Musa described his contribution to Belizean music as pivotal when considering his influence in the paradigm shift of Garifuna music from Punta to Paranda – a genre that was adopted by other prominent Garifuna musicians such as Aurelio Martinez and the late Andy Palacio, who consequently recorded what has been regarded as some of the most preeminent albums of their careers.
Musa narrated numerous encounters on international tours during which Nabor captivated the hearts and minds of many foreigners who were amazed at his sheer vocal talent and instrumental skill.
In his posthumous message to the musical icon, he said, “Your voice, from the first time you hear it, it penetrates your heart. You knew how to make the people happy. The vigor of your aching hands strum acoustic honey. Nabi, the awakening is just that – you taught us that it is never too late to begin now, to get up and speak creativity to the world. Nabi, you led a cultural resistance against the sterilization of our minds; you put salt back in our eyes so we could recognize again who we are. Nabi, you are King, not King of the Grammy, but King of gratitude – King of your temple, King of the spirit, King of curiosity. Everytime you left the stage, you would say, ‘Brado, did I make it?’ Yes, you did Nabi, yes you did! Udumbeya weyu. Landini ayo da, Nabi. Ayo da Nabi, Ayo!” Musa cited.
Aurelio Martinez told the gathering that he was grateful to have benefited from the works and tutorage of Nabor, who has been credited with keeping Garifuna culture and music alive not only in Belize, but all over the globe.
He said, “They don’t have many Nabi’s in our history. We start[ed] with him. I love you, Nabor. I’m going to love you forever. I’m gonna keep your work alive. He told me at NICH at [the] Bliss [Center for the Performing Arts], ‘Aurelio Martinez, I’m done; you are the next king. I’m gonna give it to you – this power.’ And I told him, ‘No, Nabor, not yet, you are still here and you are still a King of Paranda, even if it’s only where you live. ‘I’m tired, brother, you have to take this power; you have to keep alive this culture’, he [Nabor] told me. I’m happy to be here, but crying and sad [at the same time]. From Spain, I tried to sing part of Naguya Nei, the lyrics, but I couldn’t finish.”
“Guys, Paul Nabor didn’t die. Garifuna people don’t die. Paul Nabor is here like Andy Palacio. He’s here with us singing Watina…,” Martinez mentioned as he led the congregation in singing the famous tune which was an award-winning masterpiece compiled in 2007 in collaboration with Nabor, Palacio and the Garifuna Collective.
Yesterday, prior to the funeral, a motorcade was held in his honor through the principal streets of Punta Gorda led by the Umalali Band, with whom Nabor toured nationally and internationally.
Scores of bystanders, including schoolchildren, lined the streets to witness the event even as intermittent showers saturated the street – a testament to the unparalleled love and respect held for the man who was known as the last “King of Paranda”, an evolved form of traditional Garifuna music that is played using customary instruments such as drums and guitars.
A private wake was subsequently held at his residence, in addition to a tribute which was held for the third and final night at the Punta Gorda Sporting Complex that included a moving lineup of artists, including the Paranda Blue Band, The Umalali Band featuring Mario Rodriguez, the Wagirale Drummers, Adrian “Di Doc” Martinez, Poots “Titiman” Flores, Godfrey and the Culture Dynamics, Aurelio Martinez, and the Garifuna Collective, of which Nabor was a revered member.
On Saturday morning, Nabor’s body was picked up from the morgue by a color guard from the Belize Defence Force and transported in a formal procession to St. Peter Claver Church, where it lay in state from 10:00 a.m. until the start of his funeral service at 11:00 a.m.
Paul Nabor passed away at his home in Punta Gorda on October 22 after suffering his third massive stroke.
May his soul rest in peace.